Melquiades Rafael Martinez

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Melquiades Rafael "Mel" Martinez will be the Republican U.S. Senator from Florida until he assumes the position of Republican National Committee (RNC) Chair in January 2007. Martinez will replace Ken Mehlman, one of the figures that Pre. George W. Bush has designated as a "fall guy" and assinged responsibility for Republican electoral losses in the 2006 mid-term Congressional and Gubernatorial election. In discussions with Bush about the position, Martinez said that he insisted, "I was not going to be an attack dog. And I don't intend to. And I wasn't asked to." Martinez's selection is a sign that the leadership of the national Republican Party is on the defensive trying to defend its remaining electoral bases in the American South and among the Cuban-American community.

Martinez resigned his cabinet post on December 12, 2003 to run for an open U.S. Senate seat in Florida being vacated by retiring Democratic Senator Bob Graham. Martinez secured the Republican nomination and defeated the Democratic nominee, Betty Castor. His election made him the first Cuban-American to serve in the U.S. Senate. But then someone had to be.

Martinez is not a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Neither are fellow Florida Cuban Republicans Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Martinez served as the 12th Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under George W. Bush.

Contents

Biography

Martinez was born in Sagua La Grande, Cuba on October 23, 1946. He came to the United States in 1962 as part of a Roman Catholic humanitarian effort called Operation Peter Pan, which brought into the U.S. more than 14,000 children. Roman Catholic charitable groups provided Martinez a temporary home at two youth facilities. At the time Martinez was alone and spoke virtually no English. He subsequently lived with two foster families, and in 1966 was reunited with his family in Orlando.

Martinez graduated from the College of Law at Florida State University in 1973. During his 25 years of law practice in Orlando, he was involved in various civic organizations and served as Vice President of the Board of Catholic Charities of the Orlando Diocese.

Before becoming Secretary of HUD, Martinez was the elected Chairman of Orange County, Florida, and served on the Governor's Growth Management Study Commission. He previously served as President of the Orlando Utilities Commission, on the board of directors of a community bank, and as Chairman of the Orlando Housing Authority.

Serving as co-chairman of George W. Bush's 2000 presidential election campaign in Florida, Martinez was a leading fundraiser. He was one of the 25 electors from Florida, which voted for George W. Bush in the 2000 election. Martinez and his wife have three children and a granddaughter.

Attempted Nepotism

Senator Martinez is also the brother of medical malpractice lawyer Rafael E. Martinez. In 2003 the second Bush administration attempted to foist brother Rafael on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the human rights arm of the Organization of American States. This exercise in nepotism failed.

U.S. Senate election, 2004|U.S. Senate campaign of 2004

Martinez was the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Democrat Bob Graham. Much of Martinez's support came from Washington: he was endorsed early by many prominent Republican groups, and publicly supported by key national Republican figures such as Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. His Cuban background and his popularity in the battleground Orlando, Florida region both contributed to his appeal to the statewide GOP in Florida.

However, Martinez's nomination was far from certain through the primary election, and he was seriously challenged by former Congressman Bill McCollum. McCollum criticized Martinez's background as a plaintiff's attorney, and many Republicans initially feared that Martinez's nomination would undermine the GOP's ability to demonize Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards' background as a trial lawyer. Martinez was also said to be soft on "tort reform", a major Republican code-word in the 2004 race.

Following a McCollum surge in the final weeks leading up to the primary, Martinez fought back in the last week of the race, sending a mass mailing that called McCollum "the new darling of homosexual extremists," pointing out that McCollum had sponsored hate crimes legislation while a member of the House of Representatives. Former Florida senator Connie Mack appeared with McCollum at a press conference and blasted Martinez for his anti-gay attacks. The St. Petersburg Times even took the extraordinary step of revoking their endorsement of Martinez in the Republican primary. However, the rhetoric caused Martinez's support to rise dramatically in socially conservative areas of Florida, most notably in the Florida Panhandle, which had previously been firmly in the McCollum camp.

In the Republican primary on August 31, Martinez won a decisive victory over McCollum (42 to 33 percent with 74% of precincts reporting). Shortly afterward, he was scheduled to speak alongside President Bush at the 2004 Republican National Convention on September 2. After a general election campaign Martinez eventually defeated his Democratic opponent, Betty Castor, in a very close election.The Internet magazine Salon reported that Martinez would have rather run for governor in 2006 but the GOP convinced him to run 2 years earlier. In the end, Bush ran several points ahead of Martinez in the state, suggesting that many Republicans were put off by Martinez's style of campaigning.

Role in the "Terri Schiavo talking points memo"

On April 6, 2005, Martinez accepted the resignation of his legal counsel, Brian Darling,[1] who was responsible for writing and circulating a talking points memo that outlined a strategy for the Republicans to use the Terri Schiavo case as "a great political issue" that would appeal to the party's base (core supporters) and could be used against Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida who is up for reelection in 2006, because he had refused to co-sponsor the bill. [2]

Martinez immediately denied all knowledge of Darling's involvement in the situation, noting that he himself had inadvertently passed a copy of the memo to Democratic Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, believing that it was nothing more than an outline of the Republican proposal. Martinez asserted that the memo "was intended to be a working draft," stating that Darling "doesn't really know how I got it."

The Schiavo memo is the third recent incident in which Martinez accepted broad responsibility while laying blame upon a staffer for the underlying deed. During the Republican primary, a staffer was blamed for a passage in a campaign flyer painting his opponent Bill McCollum as a servant of the "radical homosexual lobby". Shortly thereafter another staffer was blamed for labeling federal agents involved in the Elian Gonzalez affair as "armed thugs." (St Pete Times: New gaffe, old Martinez defense)

Position on Warrantless Surveillance

Martinez backs the second Bush administration on warrantless surveillance of American citizens, saying that it is important to remember that, "we are in a time of war. This has not been abused, but used within a very limited scope for non-terrorist assets where the speed of obtaining and reacting to the information was vital." Indeed, according to the Senator, the real danger is not the violations of civil liberties of individual Americans but in "politicizing" the issue. Source: Toni Coleman. "Florida Lawmakers Weigh in on Domestic Spying." Associated Press. December 21, 2005. That the "time of war" has been described as perpetual by the second Bush administration would imply that the loss of civil liberties is permanent.

Positions

  • Abortion: Opposed to abortion generally - even in case of rape or incest[3] - but would not prosecute doctors who perform abortions, or mothers who receive them[4]. That makes sense theologically, which is to say NOT AT All.
  • Civil rights: Supports Republican-style welfare reforms encouraging personal responsibility; supports programs for job training and retraining; supports English-only education.
  • Economy: Supports free trade generally; supports tax cuts; advocates lowering regulation of employers and reducing liability insurance burdens.
  • Education: Supports No Child Left Behind Act; advocates more standardized testing; supports school voucher programs.
  • Environment: Supports funding state conservation preservation funding without raising taxes (a.k.a. having your cake and eating it too); supports opening up maximum amount of Forest Services federal land for hunting and shooting sports (votes from gun nuts); supports "voluntary incentives" legislation to make it easier for private landowners to set aside land for hunting, shooting, and conservation purposes (more votes from gun nuts).
  • Foreign policy: Expresses both Cuban-American Wing-nut Hostility to Castro and the conservative embrace of Zionism. Neither the politically mobilized working classes of Cuba nor the Palestinians are important to this vote-seeker. Could this possibly have anything to do with two very important ethnic voting blocs in Florida?
  • Health care: Supports private Medicare and Social Security accounts for new workers; advocates more thorough investigations of Medicare fraud; supports reimportation of drugs from Canada [5].
  • Homeland security: Opposes base closures in Florida; advocates maintaining "the strongest military in the world." Because someday the U.S. is going to need to re-possess a certain island off the coast of Florida.
  • Religion: Supports the free exercise of religion but not the seperation of church and state: says that he opposes "removing all public displays of religious devotion" from society, which is conservative code for Christian and Jewish religious displays on public property.
  • Same-gender marriage: Supports an amendment to the United States Constitution to ban equality of marriage rights.
  • Second Amendment: Endorses the popular misconception that this gives individuals the legal right to possess firearms rather than the plain meaning of the provision to allow states to maintain militia units.

Education

Bishop Moore High School in Orlando; Florida State University in Tallahassee

Governmental Experience

1993-2001; Chair, Senate Trade and Economic Development Committee; Vice-Chair, Senate Business and Consumer Affairs; Joint Human Services Committee; Multnomah County Commission on Children and Families; Governor's Advisory Committee on DUII

Affiliations

Contact

'Mel Martinez

Washington Office
United States Senate
Hart 317 Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-3041
Fax: (202) 228-5171 <p> Orlando Office
315 East Robinson Street
Landmark Center 1, Suite 475
Orlando, FL 32801
Phone: (407) 254-2573 <p> Miami Office
800 Douglas Road
Suite 148
Coral Gables, FL 33134
Phone: (305) 444-8332 <p> Email: Mel Martinez

Links

References

  • "Cuban-Born Senator to Serve as Republican Party Chairman." International Herald Tribune. November 14, 2006.

External links

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