In a move that surprised no one, Donald Trump began a feud with Susana Martinez, New Mexico's governor, after she failed to appear at his rally in Albuquerque. Despite lashing out in a style befitting The Donald, this fight may have larger consequences — Gov. Martinez, as the nation's first Latina governor and the head of the influential Republican Governors Association, is one of the most powerful women within the party, and clearly a much bigger political player than Trump realized. He could use the caché she carries as a strong female politician, as a recent Gallup poll showed that 70 percent of American women dislike Trump, but he instead chose to berate this rising star's efficacy as governor, a decision he made at his own peril.
Martinez occupies a unique role within the Republican party as a respected and influential Latina in a party not known for their kindness to women or minorities. Her 2010 election to the governor's office broke boundaries: She is New Mexico's first female governor, the nation's first Latina governor, and the nation's second governor who is both Latina and Republican. Prior to that, Martinez was elected District Attorney three times and beat a former employer who'd fired her when she ran for the office.
Despite Trump's criticisms of her tenure as governor, Martinez has executed a number of conservative wins, including passage of law that requires proof of citizenship to obtain a driver's license, which surely wouldn't have passed with Trump's opinions on illegal immigration.
After Trump engaged in his foolhardy word vomit in Albuquerque, New Mexico, about Gov. Martinez, members of the Republican National Convention came to her aid, including Sen. Marco Rubio, who Martinez endorsed before he dropped out of the race.
Once jokingly heralded as the new Sarah Palin, Gov. Martinez's road to Republican stardom didn't follow the typical riches-to-more-riches trajectory. Martinez, who'd spent her adult life to that point as a Democrat, said she was invited to lunch by two Republicans after expressing interest in running for office. Rather than mentioning labels like "Republican" or "Democrat," they reportedly discussed issues like welfare and small government. During her speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention, Martinez said she left that meeting with her husband and delivered what became her signature line: "I'll be damned, we're Republicans." That RNC speech sealed Martinez's fate as an important ally in the party's fight for inclusivity.
Her winning 2010 bid for governor set the stage for her rise to influence; she was endorsed by conservative radio pundit Laura Ingraham, as well as Sarah Palin. And by 2013, Martinez made it onto Time's "100 Most Influential People" list.
Although it hasn't been entirely smooth sailing for Gov. Martinez, who has reportedly been the subject of investigations into alleged misuse of campaign funds and been criticized for her stance on illegal immigration, her position within the party seemed secure, that is, until Trump bashed her in her own state on Tuesday.
Given his record with women and the disunity among Republicans with Trump's rise, one would think The Donald might try to court the accomplished New Mexico governor rather than cause another infamous feud with a powerful woman. It just goes to show that his priorities are as murky as his platform, which doesn't bode well for the country or the presidential hopeful.