Matt Lewis

New Mexico’s John Sanchez: The Next Marco Rubio?

New Mexico Lt. Governor John Sanchez is in town to discuss his likely candidacy for the U.S. Senate, and he met briefly with some writers Friday at the Caribou Coffee across from Daily Caller headquarters.

Sanchez hopes to become the first Hispanic senator elected in New Mexico since 1972 — and he might just pull it off.

First, it’s important to note that in New Mexico, voters elect their governor and lieutenant governors as a ticket, which means Sanchez is tied to New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez (Sanchez says they are the first such team of Hispanic Republicans in U.S. history).

Though it’s unlikely Martinez will take sides in a GOP primary, the fact that he was on the statewide ballot with Martinez as recently as 2010 can’t hurt.

Speaking of being on a statewide ballot, Sanchez — who is 48 years old, but could probably pass for 38 — lost a previous general election bid for governor.  But he notes that when it comes to winning statewide primary elections, he’s 2-for-2, while his potential primary rival, former Rep. Heather Wilson is 0-for-1.

(As Human Events’ John Gizzi pointed out, Sanchez’s previous loss is not likely to hurt him in New Mexico.  This might not be the case if he were running in other states who are less tolerant of losing candidates).

Wilson represents “the politics of the past,” Sanchez says, adding that conservatives are looking for “a fresh face who is a consistent conservative.”

But while Sanchez is stressing his conservative philosophy (which he says was instilled in him as a child by his mom) versus Wilson’s moderate record, he also stresses his status as a conservative Hispanic.

Sanchez notes census figures show the Hispanic population in New Mexico is rapidly increasing, and that he and Governor Martinez garnered nearly 40 percent of the Hispanic vote.  He believes conservative Hispanics can be a key part of a winning coalition.  “We’re not going to concede the Hispanic vote to the Democratic Party,” he tells me.

When I asked Sanchez which current leaders in Congress he admires, he tells me: “Marco Rubio is the one that I really look up to,” adding that Rubio is “a good conservative Hispanic.”

For those interested in creating a more diverse Republican Party, a U.S. Senator Sanchez would join other prominent Hispanic Republicans such as Senator Rubio, Governor Martinez, and Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval.