Susana Martinez, First Latina Governor, Will Be Tough on Border Security

What Women Really Think
Nov. 3 2010 11:35 AM

Susana Martinez, First Latina Governor, Will Be Tough on Border Security

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There may no longer be any African-American senators come January, but it was otherwise a big election night for Republican minority candidates . There hasn't been a black Republican in Congress since 2003, but that's changing, and two of the men elected, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Alan West of Florida, will be the first black congressmen from their states since Reconstruction. New Mexico's gubernatorial race, which went to Republican (and Palin-endorsed Mama Grizzly) Susana Martinez, marks the first time a Latina woman has been elected governor. Martinez, who grew up both Texan and Democratic (she officially became a Republican in 1996 when she ran against her former boss in a D.A. race), defeated another woman, Democrat Diane Denish, in an attack-ad-filled race that both parties poured plenty of money into. Much of Denish's out-of-state money came from unions, while Martinez got lots of cash from a few notable out-of-state sources: Koch Industries ( famous for their deep pockets and far-right views ) and The CEO Group of Florida, which oversees private prisons in New Mexico. The latter is particularly interesting, since private prison money help bankroll the push for Arizona's draconian immigration laws . Martinez, a border-county prosecutor, made a tough stance on immigration one of the most visible parts of her platform. Denish might ultimately have been undone by her ties to now-unpopular Gov. Bill Richardson (who is caught up in a corruption scandal, to boot), but it could also have been her much softer stance on immigration. And Martinez's swelling support among Hispanics in a state where they make up 45 percent of the population could have put her over the edge, too. A Latina governor in New Mexico who's tough on immigration- whether she actually has the record she's touting or not- seems like a dream come true for Republicans looking for a potent symbol that their stance on immigration has nothing to do with race.

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Photograph of Susana Martinez by Wikimedia Commons.

Noreen Malone is a senior editor at New York magazine.