WHO IS NEW MEXICO’S RISING STAR: GOVERNOR SUSANA MARTINEZ AND HER ULTIMATE IMMIGRANT STORY

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is the ultimate immigrant success story: Two generations after her Mexican grandparents arrived in the U.S., she became the nation’s first Latina governor.

And with an overall approval rating of 66 percent of New Mexicans after more than a year in office, she is arguably the most popular Republican governor in the country.

But that popularity doesn’t always translate among Hispanics, a group that in New Mexico makes up nearly half of the population.

One issue that makes many of the state’s Latino voters seethe is their governor’s stance on driver’s licenses and illegal immigrants. In her 2010 campaign, Martinez promised to repeal a law that makes New Mexico one of only three states in the country where illegal immigrants can get a driver’s license.

Gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez is greeted by supporters Saturday during a rally in Santa Fe. - Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican

At a speech in Albuquerque last year, Martinez said getting rid of the law is a matter of public safety.

“We have thousands of individuals who come to our state from not just Mexico, but all over the world in order to gain that very valuable ID,” she said.

A bill to repeal the driver’s license law has failed three times in the state legislature, and some critics charge that Martinez’s support of that bill is really part of a long-term political strategy.

“Why she is introducing policies that are divisive to the Latino community, we could only guess that it’s for political gain,” says Adrian Pedroza, who works with Hispanic neighborhoods in Albuquerque as the director of a local nonprofit.

‘Well, I’ll Be. I’m A Republican.’

Martinez, 52, is often touted as a possible 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, although she has said she would decline any offer.

Martinez grew up in a family of Democrats in a bilingual household in El Paso, Texas, just blocks from the border with Mexico. At 18, she worked in her father’s business as a revolver-carrying security guard outside a bingo hall.

She graduated from law school and later considered entering politics. That’s when some Republican friends took her out to dinner. It’s a story she often shares publicly.

“We talked about values; we talked about where we stood in reference to how the economy was going; we talked about welfare as being a hand up and not a way of life; we talked about the freedoms, the Second Amendment,” she says. “And I remember walking out of there and getting in the car with my husband, Chuck, and saying, ‘Well, I’ll be. I’m a Republican.’ “

Shortly after that, she ran for and was elected district attorney in the southern New Mexico county of Dona Ana.

Bringing In Latino Voters

New Mexico is considered a swing state that tends to lean in favor of Democrats, but the February Rasmussen poll shows Martinez enjoys broad support, even among Democrats, with whom her approval rating tops 50 percent. Among Hispanics in the state, 58 percent approve of the job she is doing, but 33 percent noted they “strongly disapprove” of her job performance — the highest of any group polled.

“I think because she is a Hispanic woman, she gets criticized more,” says Cindy Retana, an El Paso school principal and Martinez’s younger cousin. Retana says Martinez is being singled out for criticism because of her ethnic background. “She’s seen as forgetting where you come from, not being supportive of immigrants, which is absolutely the farthest thing from the truth.”

photo from the LA Times Blog

Martinez has said she is proud of her Mexican heritage, but she faces the same burning question as other high-profile Hispanic Republicans, like Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio: Can she make the party more appealing to Latino voters nationwide?

Forty-nine percent of Florida voters approved of Rubio's job performance. | AP Photo

That remains to be seen, but what is certain is that the GOP faces an uphill battle. Another February poll of likely Hispanic voters nationwide, conducted by Fox News Latino, shows President Obama leading either Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum by about a five-to-one margin in a prospective matchup.

The same poll found that 18 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to vote for the Republican nominee if Martinez was the vice presidential choice. When Rubio was the vice presidential candidate, that number jumped to 24 percent.

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IS SERGIO MARTINEZ EYEING WBC BELT AFTER SUNDAY’S VICTORY?

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

After taking out Mack The Knife, Argentine boxer Sergio Martinez has his eyes on a middleweight belt.

In a fight dubbed “Get Your Irish Up” on St. Patrick’s night, Martinez dominated Matthew Macklin in an action-packed bout and stopped him after 11 rounds. Macklin, an Englishman whose parents are Irish, was the clear favorite of the crowd at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, but Martinez was clearly the better fighter.

While no major belts were at stake because of sanctioning issues, Martinez kept his reputation as the top middleweight in the world with a late surge. He decked the game but outmatched Macklin twice near the end of the 11th round, then Macklin’s corner asked referee Eddie Cotton to stop it before the 12th round began.

“It was the right thing to stop the fight,” Martinez said. “He will now have a tomorrow. He would not have had a tomorrow if they continued the fight.”

Martinez now is 49-2-2 with 28 knockouts. He struggled early and even had his glove touch the canvas for a knockdown in the seventh round after Macklin connected with an overhand right.

But that was Macklin’s final big punch as he fell to 28-4 and ended the fight on his stool, the blood from cuts on his face having stained his green trunks.

Now, Martinez wants one of the official championships; he had the WBC belt stripped early in 2011 without ever losing it in the ring. He targeted Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. as the logical opponent.

“I want the belt. Chavez has the belt,” he said. “I want a fight with the champion. I won it inside the ring, they took it, and I want to win it in the ring (again).”

In the Garden ring Saturday night, in the final four rounds Martinez was at his best, looking nothing like a 37-year-old fighter as he bloodied Macklin.

The 4,671 person crowd featured a rooting section for Martinez waving Argentine flags that was dwarfed by the green-clad Macklin supporters.

Macklin’s fans vigorously sang the Ireland national anthem, then were invigorated by Macklin’s strong early showing.

But Martinez’s experience began to show in the eighth round, and the bout never was close after that.

“It was about being a mature boxer. It was winning on his mistakes,” said Martinez, who like Macklin weighed 158 pounds.

“The better man won tonight. I thought it was a close fight up until the last few rounds when he pulled away,” Macklin said.

Macklin was ahead on one scorecard until Martinez closed him out. Through eight rounds, though, he was ahead on all three cards.

“I lost my shape a bit,” Macklin said. “I think I proved where I belong tonight and that is in the top two or three. I don’t think too many could give him this tough a fight.”

Martinez’s left-handed stance didn’t bother Macklin early, but when Martinez began connecting with lefty leads, it gave Macklin trouble. And after the quick but undamaging knockdown in the seventh, Martinez rallied with three straight sharp lefts to Macklin’s face.

By the 10th round, Macklin lost all pretense of attacking. He was holding on, trying to be defensive, and Martinez pounced.

In the 11th, Martinez carved up his opponent with a succession of lefts, and both knockdowns came on mammoth lefts.

“I knew he couldn’t handle that,” Martinez said.

Based on Reporting By the Associated Press

Read more: LATINO FOX NEWS

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