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Governor Susana Martinez    

Former Governor of New Mexico; Nation's First Hispanic Female Governor

Susana Martinez was the 31st governor of the State of New Mexico from 2011 to 2019. 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 Martinez took office in 2011, 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. Martinez also made New Mexico’s economy more competitive for jobs and new investment. 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.

Martinez also implemented bold education reforms to raise academic standards, improve student learning and school performance, and close persistent achievement gaps. Her administration cracked down on repeat drunk drivers and launched various “ENDWI” initiatives that helped drive alcohol-related highway fatalities to record lows. 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, 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.

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 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 inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame.

Martinez currently serves as a Board Member for the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd), an Advisory Board Member for the Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows program of the Hunt Institute, and an Advisory Board Member for the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation.

Speech Topics


“En America, Todo es Posible!”: A Defense of the American Dream

For Susana Martinez, the American Dream is the story of her life. A little girl who grew up along the southern border and packed a Smith & Wesson 357 Magnum as a security guard for her parent’s small business, Susana went to law school, became a well-known prosecutor and advocate for abused children and sexual abuse survivors, and was later elected New Mexico’s first female governor and the first Hispanic female governor in our nation’s history. She passionately defends the notion that the promise of America must always be the possibility of a better life and brighter tomorrow – and discusses threats to this promise that we must confront today. Due in part to her youthful sass, Susana was dubbed “la abogadita” or “little lawyer” by her grandmother – foretelling her successful career in law enforcement as an elected district attorney. Her father served in the Marine Corps and was a Golden Gloves boxing champion, and her great grandfather served as a general under Pancho Villa and fired the first shots of the Mexican Revolution. Courage and determination is in her blood, and serving others has been her life’s calling. Hear her inspiring story and moving perspective on how to ensure that every child has the opportunity to live their own American Dream.

Holding the Line: Restoring Fiscal Sanity in Government

A budget hawk with no patience for government excess, Susana Martinez turned a record-setting budget deficit into a record-setting surplus as New Mexico’s governor – cutting taxes and fees more than 60 times, vetoing a billion dollars in tax increases, cutting wasteful spending, and restraining government growth. Susana shares the budget-making philosophy that helped her energy-rich state weather a crash in energy prices, contributed to a more welcoming business environment, and set New Mexico on a course toward greater economic diversification. The only A+ rated governor on the Cato Institute’s latest Fiscal Report Card, Susana explains how strong fiscal leadership is necessary to drive innovation in government, limit corruption, and re-focus priorities.

Issues of the Day: Finding Solutions and Common Ground in a Diverse, Polarized Nation

Drawing on her experience as a two-term, Hispanic governor of a majority-minority state, Susana Martinez shares her unique perspective on America’s future. A former Democrat who once famously remarked to her husband, “I’ll be damned, we’re Republicans!”, Susana comfortably channels the aspirations and frustrations of the American people in calling for an elevated and results-oriented discourse on the topics that so easily divide our country today. Rejecting tribalism and political labels, Susana urges a renewed, bipartisan focus on the issues that have, for decades, been emblematic of American excellence and leadership in the world: a dynamic and innovative economy, a strong well-trained military, an unbending commitment to democratic values and human rights, and an opportunity for every child to receive a quality education and live the same American Dream that she has been blessed to experience.

It’s a Different World Out There: Leadership in the States

States are often referred to as “laboratories of democracy.” True enough, says former New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, but perhaps more specifically, states are increasingly becoming the central battlefields for our nation’s most intractable and difficult policy fights, in part due to dysfunction in the nation’s capital. If bipartisan problem-solving doesn’t happen in our statehouses, if polarization permeates state legislatures, and if reform and innovation are stifled by powerful special interests, what does the future hold?

Most states must balance their budgets, state-level policies drive the delivery and oversight of public education, key health care decisions – like Medicaid expansion – are left to the states, states must compete with one another for jobs and business investment, and states are quite literally on the front line in responding to natural disasters and crises of all kinds. A hard-charging education reformer from an energy-rich western state, Susana discusses how to navigate these and other issues and describes the kind of indispensable executive leadership it takes to make progress in today’s political climate.

It’s a Different World Out There: Leadership in the States

States are often referred to as “laboratories of democracy.” True enough, says former New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, but perhaps more specifically, states are increasingly becoming the central battlefields for our nation’s most intractable and difficult policy fights, in part due to dysfunction in the nation’s capital. If bipartisan problem-solving doesn’t happen in our statehouses, if polarization permeates state legislatures, and if reform and innovation are stifled by powerful special interests, what does the future hold?

Most states must balance their budgets, state-level policies drive the delivery and oversight of public education, key health care decisions – like Medicaid expansion – are left to the states, states must compete with one another for jobs and business investment, and states are quite literally on the front line in responding to natural disasters and crises of all kinds. A hard-charging education reformer from an energy-rich western state, Susana discusses how to navigate these and other issues and describes the kind of indispensable executive leadership it takes to make progress in today’s political climate.

At the Border: Building Bridges, Building Walls

As a 25-year criminal prosecutor along New Mexico’s southern border and a Hispanic governor who collaborated with the leaders of Mexican states to plan and begin building a cross-border binational community, Susana Martinez is uniquely suited to speak to the American possibilities and responsibilities in our relationship with Mexico. She brings a sense of reason, nuance, and context when discussing the ever-polarizing subject of immigration, arguing with great conviction that properly securing the border does not conflict with – and, in fact, helps facilitate – an increasingly vital economic partnership with countries south of the border and a more welcoming and fair immigration system for all. Whether it’s working with Chihuahua’s governor to find and extradite two accused child killers from New Mexico who were hiding in Mexico, fighting a years-long battle to end the practice of issuing a standard New Mexico driver’s license to those in the country illegally, or driving New Mexico’s export growth through the southern border to record highs, Susana Martinez has a grounded and important perspective to share about what the future holds on one of the most important policy frontiers of our time.

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