Susana Martinez, the first post-Obama Republican

In this land of open skies and ragged desert flats, the former border-county prosecutor has achieved a distinctive feat: She is the country’s only Republican governor in a heavily blue state who is sailing through a contested reelection campaign. Her winning formula, an idiosyncratic mix of personality politics and relative moderation, sets her apart from other GOP state executives who have waged partisan warfare in their first terms and now appear set to pay a price in November.

Martinez is, in a sense, the first post-Obama Republican: an up-and-comer who has thrived in a heavily diverse, liberal-leaning state, dodging the most explosive national debates of the day and concentrating on a narrow agenda of issues where the center-right has politically popular ideas.

In an extended interview in suburban Santa Rosa, perched on a rock in a public park, Martinez repeatedly stressed the virtue of moving on from the wedge issues that have severely limited the reach of the Republican Party.

Martinez declined to fight a court ruling making gay marriage legal in New Mexico; she argues education policy and economic development were “more important” to the state. A personal friend of Jeb Bush, she says that under no circumstances will she join other Republican governors who have dropped support for Common Core education standards under pressure from the right. The governor makes no apology for accepting federal health care support under the Affordable Care Act, calling Obamacare a fact of life, at least for now.