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First female Latino governor pitches GOP brand

August 29, 2012|By Lisa Mascaro
(AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite )

TAMPA, Fla. -- The nation's first female Latino governor introduced herself on the national stage at the Republican convention to a largely responsive hall.

Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico pitched the GOP brand as she told of growing up in a border town to become a prosecutor, district attorney and governor.

"This is America," she said in English before flipping to Spanish. "Y en America todo es posible."

The first-term governor was given a a prime-time slot at the convention as the GOP struggles to boost its standing among Latino voters. The party's hard line on immigration in recent years comes as Democrats are attracting Latinos with support for measures to give young illegal immigrants an opportunity to stay in the United States if they attend college or join the military.

Martinez shifted attention away from thorny policy debates to broader political themes.

"Despite what some would have us believe, success is not built on resentment and fears," she said.

She told the story of packing a Smith and Wesson .357 when she worked bingo games at the Catholic church hall -- to big applause -- and of a political transformation after being courted by the GOP as she ran for district attorney.

The Republicans, she said, invited her to a lunch, and she decided to attend to be polite.

Only after talking about the issues -- Is welfare a way of life, or a hand up? What is the proper size of government -- did she realize her political bent.

As she left, climbing in the car, she said to her husband: "I'll be damned, we're Republicans," she said to cheers.

lisa.mascaro@latimes.com
@lisamascaroindc

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