by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
While Andrew Romano peppers much of his Newsweek profile of New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez with barbs aimed at Mitt Romney and the GOP, the article does offer occasional interesting anecdotes.
[A]s she prepared to run for D.A., she decided to re-register as a Republican. Martinez has told her conversion story so many times that local politicos can recite it by heart. A couple of Las Cruces conservatives invite her and Franco to lunch. Martinez is wary. But as the Republicans talk, she begins to change her mind. She finds that she agrees with them on issue after issue. She’s pro-welfare reform, having seen the “cycle of dependency” firsthand as a prosecutor. She’s pro-Second Amendment, having carried a gun since she started “securing bingos in parking lots at the Catholic Church” for the family’s security firm as a teenager. (The .357 was so large that “as I walked, I got a nice little bruise on the hip,” she recalls. “But my dad said, ‘You’ll only need to fire once.’”) She’s against higher taxes, having witnessed her father struggle to hire new employees. And she’s opposed to abortion, being a Catholic and all. Afterwards, Martinez turns to Franco in the car. “I’ll be damned,” she says. “We’re Republicans. Now what?”
To me, Martinez’s tale has always seemed a bit too tidy. So as we speed along I-25 in the Suburban, I start to push back: Didn’t you realize you agreed with Republicans on abortion long before this revelatory lunch? And what about welfare reform, the hottest topic in Washington at the time? But Martinez just stares at me. “Nope,” she finally says. “I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention. I registered Democrat because my parents did. They were, we were. There was no thinking behind it. And you’ll hear that over and over here in New Mexico.” Which, of course, is the moral of Martinez’s story, and the reason she repeats it so often: There are a lot more Latinos out there like me, and a lot more of them could be Republicans. But we need to properly persuade them. “As a Hispanic, I grew up this way,” she tells me. “I didn’t suddenly become conservative. It was only the label that changed. ”
Martinez’s story brings to mind the recent Carolina Journal Radio/CarolinaJournal.tv conversation with Victor Guzman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly’s North Carolina chapter.