In 2010, Susana Martinez was elected governor of the State of New Mexico. She became New Mexico’s first female governor and the first Hispanic female governor in the history of the United States. Prior to being elected governor, Martinez was a prosecutor for 25 years along the nation’s southern border and served as Doña Ana County’s elected district attorney for over half that time. As governor, she prioritized keeping New Mexico’s communities safe, ensuring all students receive a high-quality education, and diversifying and growing the state’s economy.
When Governor Martinez took office in 2011, she inherited a nearly half-billion-dollar budget deficit, on a state budget that totaled just over $5.5 billion at the time. Through responsible spending and a commitment to expanding and diversifying the state’s economy, she turned the largest structural deficit in state history into a $2 billion surplus by the time she left office. She never raised taxes. In fact, she vetoed over $1 billion in proposed tax increases, and cut taxes and fees 61 times while in office.
Governor Martinez enacted reforms to make the state more competitive to help businesses create more jobs and when she left office, New Mexico’s job growth had reached a 12-year high and the unemployment rate had fallen from 7.8 to 4.6 percent. She established a robust closing fund and expanded job training incentives, streamlined regulations and cut red tape, lowered the business tax rate, and worked with governors in Mexico to build a bustling bi-national economic corridor along the border. New Mexico became a national leader in export growth. And, as a result of these tools, reforms and investments, national and global companies like Netflix, Facebook, and SafeLite have moved major operations to New Mexico, while homegrown cutting-edge businesses like RS21, Skorpios, Risksense, Descartes Labs, and others have been able to expand and thrive.
The Governor also implemented bold education reforms to raise academic standards, improve student learning and school performance, and close persistent achievement gaps. On her watch, New Mexico’s graduation rate increased 10 percentage points – to an all-time high of 73 percent, fewer graduating students needed to take remedial courses in college, and the four-year college graduation rate at the state’s flagship university doubled. Governor Martinez raised the salaries of starting teachers, significantly increased funding for – and participation in – Pre-K programs and other early childhood education initiatives, expanded literacy programs and tutoring for at-risk students, and launched new teacher and principal mentoring programs that improved classroom instruction and student performance.
Ensuring that New Mexicans feel safe in their homes and communities was also a top priority for Governor Martinez. Her administration cracked down on repeat drunk drivers and launched various “ENDWI” initiatives that helped drive alcohol-related highway fatalities to record lows. She raised State Police officer salaries and fought to provide law enforcement officers and prosecutors with the tools they needed to get criminals off the streets. For example, as District Attorney, Martinez fought to pass “Katie’s Law,” which required a DNA sample to be taken from those arrested for certain crimes in New Mexico. As Governor, she signed the expansion of that law, requiring a DNA sample for all felony arrests. The law has matched felony arrestee DNA to more than 1,500 cold cases since 2007, saving countless lives and helping identify and prosecute murderers, rapists, and other serious offenders.
In 2014, Governor Martinez won re-election by the largest margin of any Republican gubernatorial candidate in modern history, earning substantial support from Democratic and Independent voters in rural and urban areas alike. She served alongside a Democratically-controlled Legislature throughout her time in office, with the exception of a two-year period of Republican control of one chamber. She has been named to Time Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People in the World and served as a Chairman and long-time executive committee member of the Republican Governors Association (RGA). During her chairmanship, she broke RGA fundraising records and, at the conclusion of her term, Republicans held the greatest number of gubernatorial offices in U.S. history.
Governor Martinez comes from a hard-working, middle class family. Her father, a long-time boxer and descendant of Mexican revolutionary Toribio Ortega, started a security guard business with her mother, who did the paperwork for the business at their kitchen table. Martinez worked as a security guard in the family business while attending college. She was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley and has made Las Cruces, New Mexico her home since the 1980s. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at El Paso and later earned her law degree from the University of Oklahoma School of Law, where she was recently elected into the law school’s Hall of Fame.
Her husband, Chuck Franco, concluded his three-decade career in law enforcement serving as the Doña Ana County undersheriff. Her stepson Carlo is a veteran of the United States Navy and is currently working as a police officer. Martinez is also the caretaker to her older sister Lettie, who has cerebral palsy and is developmentally disabled.