SANTA FE – Striking a bipartisan tone and promising to push for education reform, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez took the oath of office for a second time Thursday during a public inauguration celebration on New Year’s Day.
Martinez, the nation’s only Latina governor and rising star within the Republican Party, told an audience at a ceremony inside the House chamber that the election was over, and it was time for both parties to put aside differences to find solutions to help transform one of the poorest states in the country.
The governor officially began her second term after being sworn in during a private ceremony at the governor’s residence at midnight. She was joined by her family and closest friends.
Despite the GOP winning control of the New Mexico House for the first time in 60 years, Martinez told the audience at the public gathering that voters wanted all elected leaders to draft reforms together.
“It is certainly the case that Republicans had a good night on Election Night. But it would be a mistake for us to believe we were elected because voters wanted Republican politicians in office. That’s not the message,” Martinez said in a 20-minute speech.
She cautioned that history was “littered with failed politicians who believed that voters wanted one party over the other” and said that lawmakers had no choice but to compromise.
Still, she also sent a stern warning to Democrats and teachers unions that while she was open to listen to concerns about some of her educational proposals, she was in no mood to lower student standards.
“I will meet anyone halfway if we’re focused on the same goal of student achievement, but I will never compromise on lowering standards for our children. Never,” Martinez said.
Martinez enters her second term with the first Republican-controlled New Mexico House since Dwight D. Eisenhower was president. However, she still has to contend with a Democratic-led Senate where some of her previous reform proposals have died.
Aside from education, Martinez is expected to push to repeal a state law that allows immigrants in the country illegally to obtain driver’s licenses – a measure that has generated staunch opposition from Democrats.
Don Tripp, the expected incoming House Speaker, echoed Martinez’s desire for both parties to come together on a number of proposals. He said he was optimistic about the upcoming session.
Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, said he was pleased to hear that the governor wanted to work with Democrats on legislation now that the election was over.
“The Democrats are very interested in coming up with a bipartisan approach,” Ortiz y Pino said. “But if we push back on some issues, it doesn’t mean we’re not bipartisan. It just means we feel strongly about certain issues.”
Ortiz y Pino, however, said he saw a number of areas where Democrats and Republicans could come together. He said a bill on third-grade reading standards could pass if Martinez could agree to more tutoring, for example.
“All we need is the governor and the public education secretary (Hanna Skandera) to budge a little,” Ortiz y Pino said.