By Milan Simonich
Texas-New Mexico Newspapers
SANTA FE — Gov. Susana Martinez used to be a Democrat, but she says calm, rational discussion with friends made her realize that she was a Republican at heart.
Now the nation’s first Hispanic female governor, Martinez said other ethnic minorities and women can be drawn to the Republican Party, just as she was.
She and Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada were on a national conference call Wednesday as honorary co-chairs of the Future Majority Caucus, a newly formed political organization to support Republican candidates who break the traditional mold.
The Republican State Leadership Committee is behind the new organization, whose mission is to recruit and help finance women and ethnic minorities running for state offices.
Martinez referred to New Mexico state Rep. Sharon Clahchischilliage as an example of a breakthrough candidate.
Clahchischilliage is a Navajo and a Republican. She defeated seven-term Democratic Rep. Ray Begaye last November, aided by a travel scandal that kept him on the defensive.
Martinez said a range of policy issues could bring more Hispanics and other ethnic minorities into the party. She said Hispanics are not monolithic, and they have wide-ranging concerns that include education and business growth.
National reporters asked Martinez about her ongoing attempt to repeal a law that enables illegal immigrants with proper identification to obtain New Mexico driver’s licenses, and whether her campaign would alienate Hispanics.


Martinez said the licensing law makes New Mexico a magnet for fraud. She said the law is a threat to public safety, not an immigration issue.
She cited an Albuquerque Journal poll that said 72 percent of state residents and 65 percent of Hispanics favor repeal of the law.
Democrats in the House of Representatives, who so far this legislative session have bottled up her repeal bill, say the law makes the state safer because immigrant motorists have to pass driving tests to get licenses.
Democrats also say the driver’s license law helps the state economy, especially its farms, service businesses and labor-intensive industries.
Just last week, the lobbyist for the New Mexico Chile Association said Mexican nationals were the primary source of labor on the state’s famous chile farms. The average age of these workers is 60, said the lobbyist, Charlie Marquez.
Sandoval and Martinez praised U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida for his work on immigration reform. Sandoval said Republicans “welcome people in this country who come here legally.”
Ed Gillespie, back as chairman of the Republican State Leadership Committee after having spent a year on Mitt Romney’s campaign for president, 
will oversee the Future Majority Caucus.
Two freshmen Republicans in the New Mexico Legislature were named as board members of the political organization. They are state Reps. Monica Youngblood and Paul Pacheco, both of Albuquerque.
Gillespie said the Future Majority Caucus would not involve itself in primaries, saving its resources for general elections.
Milan Simonich, Santa Fe bureau chief of Texas-New Mexico Newspapers, can be reached at or 505-820-6898. His blog is at