When she took the oath of office Saturday morning in Santa Fe’s historic plaza, Susana Martinez aNew Mexico’s — and the nation’s — first elected Latina governor.
The 51-year-old, four-term Doña Ana County district attorney is also a rising star in national Republican circles, already being mentioned in the blogosphere as a potential vice presidential candidate in 2012.
But as she takes over from Bill Richardson — a termed-out Democrat whose final two years in office were clouded by federal investigations into pay-for-play allegations — Martinez faces stiff challenges as New Mexico deals with a high unemployment rate and a hefty budget deficit.
“We have to start cutting back on the wasteful spending,” Martinez said in a telephone interview last week as she drove to her hometown of Las Cruces. She wants to sell the state’s $5.5-million jet, pare administrative costs in the education budget and put the state’s generous film industry incentives under the microscope.
Martinez is also considering scaling back the Rail Runner Express commuter train service and is looking to privatize operations at Spaceport America, where Virgin Galactic soon hopes to launch suborbital space flights. She has also promised to reverse a policy of issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and to fight for reinstatement of the death penalty.
Each of these proposals could be seen as a repudiation of Richardson and his expansive approach to state government. “We’re asking people to cut back and not spend as much, but government has not been able to do that,” Martinez said.
Read more here.