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ALBUQUERQUE — Susana Martinez will become New Mexico’s first woman governor — and the first Hispanic female governor anywhere in the United States. Her victorious campaign was the runaway choice as the state’s biggest news story of 2010.
Martinez, the Republican district attorney in Dona Ana County, defeated Democratic Lt. Gov. Diane Denish in the November general election.
When she takes office Jan. 1, Martinez will confront another issue that was voted one of New Mexico’s top news stories of the year.
The state’s $400 million budget deficit will become a priority for the incoming Martinez administration. Only days after her election victory, Martinez learned the figure had increased from an estimated $200 million during the campaign.
She said the challenge of balancing the budget will require a bipartisan effort.
“We must do more than just change the party in power if we’re going to set a new course in New Mexico,” Martinez said on election night. “We must work across party lines — Republicans and Democrats — to move our state forward. We have a lot of work to do.”
According to results of voting by Associated Press newspaper and broadcast members around the state, campaign coverage and election night results dominated the news this year.
The New Mexico congressional races were contested amid a national mood that favored Republicans as they seized control of the U.S. House.
In southern New Mexico’s sprawling congressional district, former Rep. Steve Pearce won back his old job by beating incumbent Democratic Rep. Harry Teague.
The state’s two other first-term Democrats fared better: Rep. Ben Ray Lujan defended his northern New Mexico seat against GOP challenger Tom Mullins and Rep. Martin Heinrich retained the Albuquerque-area seat over Republican Jon Barela.
In state-level campaigns, Republicans made big gains in the New Mexico House, winning eight legislative races to trim the Democrats’ majority to 37-33 and alter the political landscape in Santa Fe as Martinez takes over for the term-limited Richardson.
The headlines in New Mexico in 2010 also featured prominent crime stories and federal investigations.
Two Arizona prison escapees and a woman accused of helping them were indicted on capital murder and carjacking charges in the deaths of an Oklahoma couple near Santa Rosa. The victims were on a camping trip to Colorado and encountered the escapees at a rest stop.
U.S. Attorney Kenneth Gonzales said Gary and Linda Haas simply were “two people on vacation who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
In Farmington, a case that shocked the community became the first in the nation to be prosecuted under a new federal law expanding civil rights protections after three men were accused of branding a swastika on a developmentally disabled Navajo man.
Former Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist Leonardo Mascheroni and his wife were arrested and charged with offering to help develop a nuclear weapon for Venezuela during their dealings with an undercover FBI agent who was posing as a representative of the Venezuelan government.
In the fall, New Mexico’s close-knit ballooning community confronted a tragedy after acclaimed balloonists Richard Abruzzo of Albuquerque and Carol Rymer Davis of Denver died when their gas balloon crashed into the Adriatic Sea during the Gordon Bennett race.
Finally, an Associated Press analysis showed New Mexico, Washington and Utah — states that issue driver’s licenses to foreign nationals — reported a surge in immigrants seeking licenses. Experts attributed the trend to immigration crackdowns in Arizona and elsewhere.