New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez catapulted to the national stage Wednesday night with her remarks at the Republican National Convention, telling her path to the GOP and why she believes her party, led by Mitt Romney, will offer the best future for the United States moving forward.
"Growing up, I never imagined a girl from a border town could one day become a governor. But this is America Y, en America todo es posible,"said Martinez, who is the first Latina governor in United States history and expected to be of key importance for aiding Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney close his massive 30-point gap in support from Hispanic voters against President Obama.
Martinez's opened her close to 11-minute speech by calling attention and reverence to those facing extreme weather conditions on the Gulf Coast, and encouraged viewers to donate to the Red Cross. From there, the first-term governor quickly took hold of an engaged and at times ecstatic crowd, moving from her personal story to an indictment of President Obama on the economy, and a proclamation of support for Mitt Romney.
Martinez spoke of helping her parents, including her father who was a golden gloves boxer in the Marine Corps, start their security guard business as a teen, making sure to provoke loud applause after mentioning guarding the "parking lot at the Catholic Church bingos" with a Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum.
"Success is not built on resentment and fear," said Martinez, going on to describe the growth of her parents company while taking subtle and not-so-subtle jabs at the current administration.
"But my parents took the risk. They stood up. And you better believe that they built it."
Martinez was elected governor in 2010 running on a platform pledging to cut wasteful spending, lower taxes, fight for education reform and "end 'pay-to-play' practices," winning support from Tea Party groups and 2008 Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin. Martinez herself was reportedly on Mitt Romney's list of potential running mates.
The New Mexico governor told the convention crowd of her career in the District Attorney's office, prosecuting child abuse and child homicide cases, as well as losing her job after testifying against her boss, who she would go on to beat in his reelection for the District Attorney for New Mexico's Third Judicial District. Martinez described her experience as governor, working in a bi-partisan manner to turn the state's deficit into a surplus without raising taxes.
"I fear some of our leaders today have lost the courage to stand up," said Martinez Wednesday. "They won't offer real plans, and only stand up when they want to blame someone else."
Martinez described her party switch from Democrat to Republican in the mid-1990s after reflecting on issues of welfare and the size of government. Speaking proudly as America's first Latina governor, Democrat or Republican, Martinez said she is motivated to help create a path for young girls to follow.
"They need to know; no more barriers," said Martinez.
Martinez criticized President Obama for raising the national debt and failing to keep promises he made to lower unemployment, cut the deficit in half in his first term, or pass immigration reform in his first year.
During an interview with Newsweek in May 2012, Martinez expressed disappointment with Romney's answer on immigration reform during a January primary debate, as well as the Republican primary campaign's general outreach to Hispanics.
“‘Self-deport?’ What the heck does that mean?” Martinez said at the time. “I have no doubt Hispanics have been alienated during this campaign. But now there’s an opportunity for Gov. Romney to have a sincere conversation about what we can do and why.”
In New Mexico, Martinez has sought to repeal a state law that grants driver's licenses to illegal immigrants and signed an executive order that requires state law enforcement check the immigration statusof criminal suspects. In the Newsweek interview, Martinez expressed support for comprehensive immigration reform that would include increased border security, deportation for criminals, a guest-worker program, and a pathway to citizenship through the military or college for children brought here illegally by their parents.
Aside from criticizing the president, Martinez did not comment further on immigration reform during her convention remarks.
"Mitt Romney and I are very different. Different starts in life. Different paths to leadership. Different cultures," said Martinez in closing.
"But we've each shared in the promise of America, and we share a core belief that the promise of America must be kept for the next generation. El sueno Americanos es tener exito. It's success."
Martinez left the stage to a standing ovation from the convention crowd, immediately followed by Republican nominee for Vice President Paul Ryan.
"Martinez has tended to fly under the radar...but those days are over," tweeted Monica Crowley following the remarks. Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post rated Martinez as one of the night's biggest winners.
"Before tonight most people – including most Republicans – didn’t know much (if anything) about the New Mexico governor," wrote Cillizza, who compared her demeanor to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. "The strength of Martinez’s speech was, for us, the most surprising thing about the night."
While New Mexico went to Barack Obama in 2008, and still leans towards him in 2012 with 52 percent support in recent polls, the southwestern state has been won by Republicans in four of the last eight presidential elections, most recently by George W. Bush in 2004.
Watch Susana Martinez's convention speech below: