Oct. 30--When she first ran for District Attorney in New Mexico in 1996, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez said it wasn't a good time to be a Republican.
Democrats outnumbered Republicans in the state 3-to-1.
"I didn't think I could win. Then we started talking about what was important to people," Martinez said. "I needed Democrats in order to win. I could not win unless there were people willing to cross party lines."
Martinez made her remarks Tuesday at the Sebastian County Republican Committee Lincoln Day Dinner, where she was the guest speaker.
Martinez ended up winning her race against an incumbent Democrat with almost 60 percent of the vote, and was re-elected three times.
"We won that race with 60 percent of the vote and were outnumbered 3-to-1, because we talked and we talked and we talked to people," Martinez said.
In 2010, Martinez decided to run for governor, despite only 3 percent name recognition -- all from her home county -- and again needing Democrats to cross party lines, if she made it out of the five-candidate GOP primary.
She won the primary with 51 percent of the vote and the general election with 53 percent of the vote.
Martinez, the first female Hispanic governor in the country, said people ask her how she gets Hispanics and minorities to actually vote for a Republican.
"Make them part of the solution, make them part of what we talk about instead of just visiting them, asking them to vote Republican and walk away," Martinez said.
Martinez said it's also important to show up everywhere. Most GOP candidates didn't even bother campaigning in the northern part of the state, because it was 80 to 90 percent Hispanic and 80 to 90 percent Democrat.
"I went to every single county, over and over, and I was the last one to leave (events) and I had personal communication. I talked to people, I listened to people and I actually, genuinely spoke to them," Martinez said.
Republicans also need to watch the tone of their rhetoric, Martinez said.
"I didn't trash Democrats for the sake of trashing them. I may disagree with policies. But I need Democrats to vote for me. I had to convince them. ... I had to look them in the eye and say, 'I'm not going to raise your taxes, even though if I'm your governor, I'll inherit the greatest structural deficit in the history of the state,'" Martinez said.
Martinez said it's also important to be a leader, not a politician; people are tired of politicians, because they'll say anything to get elected and then reverse themselves.
Shortly after she was elected, Martinez said she was approached by a GOP leader who told her it was time to quit campaigning and start governing.
When she asked him what he meant, Martinez said he told her she had no choice but to raise taxes to fix the deficit.
Instead, Martinez said she's cut taxes 19 times since she was elected, her first budget was a balanced budget and her next two budgets had a surplus.
"To be a leader, remember what you promised and work every single day and fight to deliver on those promises," Martinez said. "I want to be a leader."
(c)2013 Times Record (Fort Smith, Ark.)
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