SANTA FE, N.M. — Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, making history as the nation's first female Hispanic governor, called Saturday for New Mexicans to unite to solve economic, budget and educational problems confronting the state.
Martinez sounded a bipartisan tone during her public inaugural ceremony on the historic Santa Fe Plaza.
"From this moment on, we must aspire together. Work together. Fight together. Triumph together. And today only marks the first day of our journey together," Martinez said in a nearly 16-minute speech.
Hours before her speech, Martinez — the state's first female governor — formally assumed control of state government as its chief executive during a private swearing-in ceremony at midnight in the Capitol Rotunda.
Saturday offered Martinez and Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, her running-mate in the general election, a daylong opportunity to celebrate the start of her administration with friends, political supporters and the public.
But Martinez warned of tough — and potentially unpopular — decisions ahead.
"I cannot promise we will always agree on methods, but we will share the same goal of a just, prospering and limitless New Mexico," said Martinez, who was bundled up with earmuffs, gloves and a black overcoat.
More than a 1,000 people braved temperatures in the teens on a sunny, nearly cloudless day to attend the inauguration. Gloves muffled the sound of applause. It was the first time in 36 years that a governor held an outdoor inauguration.
After Martinez finished reciting the oath of office, volleys of rifle shoots cracked and the boom of artillery reverberated off of store fronts.
Martinez succeeds Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, who was barred from seeking re-election after eight years in office.
The start of their administrations offered stark contrasts.
Richardson enjoyed a solid economy during his first term, with the state reaping revenue windfalls from taxes and royalties on energy production. The Democratic governor was able to cut taxes and increase spending on programs and services. After the economy soured during Richardson's second term, the budget was trimmed and taxes were raised, although that didn't erase the double-digit growth in government spending that took place during his tenure.
Martinez confronts high unemployment, a more than $400 million budget shortfall and an economy still sputtering from a national recession. Besides the fiscal challenges, Martinez must deal with problems that have long nagged New Mexico — one of the highest rates of poverty in the nation and a public school system in which a third of students fail to graduate from high school.
Martinez said "rescuing public education" was critical to improving the state's economy.
"For years, we have bred a culture of poor performance and low expectations in New Mexico that denies our children the knowledge they need to have a fair chance to live their dreams," she said.
One of the first tasks for Martinez and the Democratic-controlled Legislature is to balance the state's more than $5 billion budget. Martinez pledged during her campaign not to raise taxes.
"As families struggle to reduce their budgets, so will your government," she said to applause and cheers. "We won't take more of your money from you or grow the deficit because we are not willing to make the same tough decisions you have had to make. We won't shy from the tough decisions in this administration."
She also portrayed the state's problems as a shared challenge.
"New Mexicans have known hardships before, and overcome them. They've suffered setbacks before, and faced them undaunted. No generation has been free of adversity or excused from the responsibility of making our great state better," said Martinez.
Rep. Rhonda King, a Stanley Democrat, brought her 6-year-old daughter to witness a woman becoming governor.Comment on this story
"It's a very historic moment for all of New Mexico," said King, whose uncle, the late Bruce King, was a three-term governor.
She described Martinez's speech as uplifting and said "we have to work together, regardless of our political affiliation" because of the challenges facing the state.
Martinez, shortly after taking office, issued several executive orders, including ones to prohibit departments and boards from hiring lobbyists, directing agencies to cooperate with any federal investigation and limiting the administration's use of executive privilege to deny public records requests. Federal prosecutors have a pending investigation of possible influence peddling in the awarding of state investments.
After her inaugural address, Martinez greeted the public at a reception. The festivities were to end with an invitation-only, $100-a-ticket inaugural ball Saturday night.