Says she will continue fight to repeal controversial driver's license law
The challenge to Martinez began with four groups releasing a poll showing that 77 percent of Hispanics in New Mexico voted for President Obama. They said Republicans such as Martinez, with her driver’s license crusade, were out of step with what is important to Hispanic voters.
Patty Kupfer, managing director of America's Voice Education Fund, a Washington-based immigration reform coalition, said Martinez could be a leading, moderate voice in her party on immigration issues. Kupfer said Republicans would do better with voters if Martinez dropped the licensing issue and looked at the bigger picture.
Marcela Diaz, director of the Santa Fe-based immigrant group Somos Un Pueblo Unido, said the results of this week’s election demonstrated that Martinez was wrong about how the public sees the driver’s license question.
New Mexico law enables illegal immigrants to obtain state driver’s licenses, a measure that Martinez campaigned against and has continued to oppose at every opportunity. Martinez said the law puts people in peril, and predicted that it would resonate with the electorate.
“She said voters would decide the issue on Election Day, and the voters chose reform over repeal,” Diaz said.
Diaz was referring to the defeat of four and possibly five state legislators who steadfastly favored a repeal bill.
Voters ousted Republican Reps. Rick Little of Chaparral, Conrad James of Albuquerque, Jim Hall of Los Alamos and independent Andy Nunez of Hatch.
Another repeal advocate, Republican Rep. Terry McMillan of Las Cruces, is still fighting to hold his seat. On Friday, a canvas of more than 12,000 votes showed McMillan in a tie with his opponent, Democrat Joanne J. Ferrary. A recount of their race is still to come.
Scott Darnell, the governor’s press secretary, said the election actually showed support for Martinez’s stand.
“Voters defeated the lead opponent of the driver’s license repeal — longtime Senate President Tim Jennings — along with Sen. (Mary Jane) Garcia, who is another member of Senate Democratic leadership and an ardent opponent of repealing the law,” Darnell said. “That’s in addition to the defeat of the former head of the trial lawyers association, (Sen. Lisa Curtis) who also opposed the repeal, and of Rep. (Ray) Begaye in the House of Representatives.”
But in fact, Begaye was on Martinez’s side on this issue. He voted to repeal the licensing law in both 2011 and this year.
The repeal cleared the House of Representatives both times but died in the Senate.
Darnell said the citizenry overwhelmingly stands with Martinez on the licensing issue.
“The governor believes it’s a law that has made New Mexico less safe and a magnet for criminal activity,” he said.