At a jam-packed gathering at political hangout Roberto's restaurant this evening, Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez announced she will run for Governor in next year's election. In her brief remarks to the crowd she stressed her background as a law enforcement official, vowing to end "pay-to-play" in New Mexico. That line drew the heaviest applause. She also stressed the need to improve education in New Mexico and not just talk about it, and emphasized the need to protect our borders with Mexico while at the same time encouraging the pursuit of business opportunities on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The crowd was visibly enthusiastic, and, ethnically, it represented a reasonably accurate cross-section of the county, which is about 65% Hispanic. Republicans in New Mexico are highly under-represented by Hispanics, who comprise 45% of the state's population. Martinez has been a popular district attorney, running without opposition in last year's election, and winning with 61% of the vote in 2004 against Democrat Greg Valdez, who was the incumbent district attorney when she beat him decisively in 1996. Democrats win routinely in Dona Ana County by large margins, and outnumber Republicans by nearly 2-1. Thus, Martinez's sustained popularity as a Hispanic Republican in a large county (population 203,000) that is strongly Democratic suggests a high potential for her as a statewide candidate.