In a sign of her rising stature within the Republican Party, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez took center stage Wednesday night at the Republican Convention in Tampa – speaking right before vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

In her speech, an emotional Martinez attacked President Barack Obama for the U.S.’s growing national debt while calling for bi-partisan politics to solve America’s problems. Martinez, like her fellow Latino politicians Ted Cruz of Texas and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, began her convention speech by recalling her family’s blue-collar past.

“We grew up on the border and truly lived paycheck to paycheck. My dad was a golden gloves boxer in the Marine Corps, then a deputy sheriff. My mom worked as an office assistant,” Martinez said, adding that her family opened up a security business that had her guarding a church parking lot with a Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum. “And sure, there was help along the way. But my parents took the risk. They stood up. And you better believe that they built it.”

Too many Americans are out of work, and our debt is out of control. This election needs to be about those issues.

- New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez

Like her Nevada counterpart Sandoval, Martinez earned a law degree and eventually was elected District Attorney of the 3rd Judicial District of New Mexico in 1996. She was elected governor of New Mexico in 2010, becoming the first Latina to hold a governorship in the U.S. and recent polls show that her approval rating in the border state is above 50 percent.

Unlike Nevada however, which suffers from the nation’s highest unemployment rate at 12 percent, New Mexico’s is almost half that at 6.7 percent. However during her speech, Martinez railed against Obama for the nation’s high unemployment.

“Too many Americans are out of work, and our debt is out of control. This election needs to be about those issues,” Martinez said. “[Obama] promised to bring us all together, to cut unemployment, to pass immigration reform in his first year and even promised to cut the deficit in half in his first term. Do you remember that? But he hasn't come close.”

In the past, despite rumors that she was a potential candidate for Mitt Romney’s running mate, Martinez has been critical of the Republican presidential candidate. In May, Martinez condemned Romney’s now infamous “self-deport” comment and she also said the GOP needs its own comprehensive immigration reform measure to combat the Obama administration’s lack of action on the issue.

“‘Self-deport?’ What the heck does that mean?” Martinez said in an interview with Newsweek. “I have no doubt Hispanics have been alienated during this campaign. But now there’s an opportunity for Gov. Romney to have a sincere conversation about what we can do and why.”

While admitting that her and Romney did not see eye to eye on every matter, Martinez put her issues with him aside and threw her support behind the GOP presidential candidate.

“In many ways Mitt Romney and I are very different. Different starts in life. Different paths to leadership. Different cultures,” Martinez said during her speech. “But we've each shared in the promise of America, and we share a core belief that the promise of America must be kept for the next generation. El sueno Americanos es tener exito.  It's success. Success is the American Dream.”

Follow Andrew O'Reilly on Twitter @aoreilly84.

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