The home-loyalty issue came up again after the election when Mr. Martínez cast the tie-breaking vote to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Environmental groups see Arctic drilling as the first step toward drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, a hot-button political issue in nearby Florida.
The Senate race also raised questions about Mr. Martínez's campaign tactics. During the primary stage, he labeled moderate Republican rival Bill McCollum as anti-family and pro-gay for his support of stem-cell research and a hate-crime bill. Mr. Martínez's "reputation will be forever tainted by his campaign's nasty and ludicrous slurs of McCollum in the final days of the race," the St. Petersburg Times wrote.
But he won. And since then, Mr. Martínez has moved quickly to solidify his position. His senior staff includes heavy hitters such as former White House associate political director Matthew Hunter as his Florida state director; John Little, former legislative director for Senator Jeff Sessions, as chief of staff; and Tripp Baird, former Heritage Foundation legislative affairs director, as legislative director.
On the economic front, Mr. Martínez says he will strive to make Miami the permanent secretariat of the Free Trade Area of the Americas, even though many analysts see the project as a dead issue. During his tenure as chairman of Orange County, he gained a reputation as a tax-cutter, a trend that supporters expect to continue in the Senate. "Hispanic entrepreneurs should be glad that Martínez is in Congress because he will strive to relieve them from unnecessary taxes," says Ms. Ros-Lehtinen.
Mr. Martínez found himself in the middle of a firestorm in early April, when it was revealed that his legal counsel was the author of a memo citing the political advantage to Republicans of intervening in the case of Terri Schiavo. The aide's resignation was accepted soon afterward, and Mr. Martínez, who was the GOP's Senate point man on the issue, said, "I just took it for granted that we wouldn't be that stupid. It was never my intention to in any way politicize this issue."
Like Mr. Bush, Mr. Martínez supports the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, and opposes abortion as well as embryonic stem cell research. "I escaped an evil dictatorship where there was no value placed on human life, and I know firsthand that respect for the sanctity of life is a critical characteristic of a good nation," Mr. Martínez said during his campaign. He also favors the war in Iraq, agrees with the death penalty, and opposes government limits on the right to bear arms.
The memories of his Cuban heritage were vivid, Mr. Martínez says, when he took his seat on Capitol Hill. "It's been a long road from my native Sagua to the Senate floor."
•Emigrated from Cuba to the United States in 1962, at the age of 15, as part of the Catholic Church's program to relocate children from the communist island.
•Reunited with his parents in 1966 in Orlando, Florida, after living in foster homes and orphanages.
•Graduated from Bishop Moore High School
•Earned bachelor's and law degrees from Florida State University in Tallahassee.
•Practiced as a personal injury attorney in Orlando with a law firm that included former Orlando mayor Bill Frederick.
•Debuted in politics in 1984 when he was appointed chairman of the Orlando Housing Authority.
•Ran for lieutenant governor in 1994.
•Served as Florida co-chairman of Bob Dole's presidential campaign in 1996.
•Elected Orange County, Florida, chairman in 1998.
•Served as George W. Bush's Florida campaign
co-chairman and a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2000.
•Tapped to head Department of Housing and
Urban Development in 2001.
•Married more than 30 years to wife, Kitty, with three children and two grandchildren.
Most Popular Stories
- SEO Traffic Lab Celebrate Wins at Digital Marketing Event 'Internet World 2013' in London
- Social Media Initiatives Should Follow Customers' Lead
- Apple CEO: Offshore Units Not a 'Tax Gimmick'
- U.S. Senate Accuses Apple of Large-scale Tax Avoidance
- UTEP Water Recycling Project Wins Venture Titles
- Marketo Makes a Mint in IPO: Stock Shoots Up More than 50 Percent
- Bieber Booed at Billboard Awards
- Crude Oil Up, Gasoline Down
- Austin Startup Compare Metrics Raises $3.5 Million for Expansion
- Why So Many Top 'Car Guys' Are Actually Women