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  Martinez, Mel
NameMel Martinez
Orlando, Florida , United States
Website [Link]
Born October 23, 1946 (74 years)
ContributorBarack O-blame-a
Last ModifedRBH
Jan 22, 2017 03:40pm
Tags Cuban - Hispanic - Catholic -
InfoMelquiades Rafael "Mel" Martinez is a Republican Cuban-born American politician and U.S. Senator from Florida. Martinez served as the 12th Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President George W. Bush.

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 narrowly defeated the Democratic nominee, Betty Castor. His election made him the first Cuban-American to serve in the U.S. Senate. Furthermore, he and Ken Salazar are the first Hispanic U.S. Senators since 1977.

Martinez was born in Sagua La Grande, Cuba. 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. 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. He 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. He is the brother of Rafael E. Martinez.

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 destroy the GOP's ability to criticize Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards' background. Martinez was also said to be soft on tort reform, a major Republican issue 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. 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. Bush won by 52%-47%, while Martinez only prevailed by 49%-48%, with a margin of about 70,000 votes. Notably, Martinez did much worse than Bush in the Tampa area, such as in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, and in smaller counties such as Liberty and Lafayette. The only counties that Martinez won that Bush did not were Orange and Miami-Dade. Martinez's margin was deemed small enough that a winner was not declared until Castor conceded the race the day after election night.

On April 6, 2005, Martinez accepted the resignation of his legal counsel, Brian Darling, 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.

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 labelling federal agents involved in the Elián González affair as "armed thugs."


DateFirmApproveDisapproveDon't Know
07/30/2008-08/02/2008 Public Policy Polling 24.00% ( 0.0) 40.00% ( 0.0) 35.00% ( 0.0)
06/27/2008-06/29/2008 Strategic Vision (R) 47.00% ( 6.0) 41.00% ( 4.0) 12.00% ( 10.0)
05/27/2008-06/01/2008 Quinnipiac University 40.00% ( 4.0) 35.00% ( 2.0) 25.00% ( 2.0)
04/07/2008-04/08/2008 Quinnipiac University 36.00% ( 1.0) 37.00% ( 3.0) 27.00% ( 3.0)
05/24/2007-06/04/2007 Quinnipiac University 37.00% ( 11.0) 34.00% ( 12.0) 30.00% ( 0.0)
01/29/2007-02/04/2007 Quinnipiac University 48.00% ( 7.0) 22.00% ( 10.0) 30.00% ( 7.0)
06/09/2006-06/11/2006 Survey USA 43.00% ( 0.0) 44.00% ( 0.0) 13.00% ( 0.0)
05/15/2006-05/22/2006 Quinnipiac University 41.00% ( 2.0) 32.00% ( 1.0) 37.00% ( 11.0)
05/12/2006-05/14/2006 Survey USA 43.00% ( 0.0) 44.00% ( 2.0) 13.00% ( 2.0)
04/11/2006-04/17/2006 Quinnipiac University 43.00% ( 3.0) 31.00% ( 1.0) 26.00% ( 1.0)
DateFirmFavorableUnfavorableDon't Know
09/03/2007-09/09/2007 Quinnipiac University 38.00% ( 2.0) 33.00% ( 5.0) 29.00% ( 3.0)
07/12/2007-07/16/2007 Quinnipiac University 36.00% ( 0.0) 38.00% ( 0.0) 26.00% ( 0.0)

Title Purchase Contributor

Start Date End Date Type Title Contributor

Date Category Headline Article Contributor
Sep 05, 2009 04:50pm General Sen. Martinez stumbled on short path  Article Jason 
Aug 07, 2009 09:00am News Mel Martinez resigning  Article karin1492 
May 21, 2009 01:25pm Op-Ed by Candidate Card check: A false solution  Article CBlock941 
Sep 09, 2007 09:55pm Profile His Task: Sell Hispanics On GOP  Article RP 
Apr 20, 2007 12:20pm Oops Florida Sen. Martinez could face fines  Article RP 
Nov 13, 2006 02:00pm News Martinez to become new RNC chief  Article New York Democrat 

Importance? 8.00000 Average


  01/03/2009 Seat 07 Won 100.00% (+100.00%)
  01/19/2007 RNC Party Chair Won 100.00% (+100.00%)
  01/03/2007 Seat 10 Won 100.00% (+100.00%)
  11/02/2004 FL US Senate Won 49.43% (+1.11%)
  08/31/2004 FL US Senate - R Primary Won 44.86% (+13.94%)
  01/20/2001 Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Won 100.00% (+100.00%)
  11/03/1998 Orange County Chair Won 59.99% (+19.98%)
  09/04/1998 Orange County Chair - Primary Won 39.96% (+0.00%)
  09/21/1994 FL Lt. Governor - R Primary Lost 9.31% (-36.37%)
FL US President - R Primary - Mar 15, 2016 R Jeb Bush
FL US President - R Primary - Jan 31, 2012 R Mitt Romney
FL US Senate - R Primary - Aug 24, 2010 D Charlie Crist
FL District 08 - R Primary - Aug 24, 2010 R Bruce O'Donoghue
FL Governor - R Primary - Aug 24, 2010 R William "Bill" McCollum, Jr.
Supreme Court - Associate Justice - Aug 06, 2009 I Sonia Sotomayor
Legal Adviser of the Department of State - Jun 25, 2009 N Harold Koh
Solicitor General of the United States - Mar 19, 2009 NPA Reject
US Attorney General - Feb 02, 2009 D Eric Holder
National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman - Nov 18, 2008 R Norm Coleman
Florida Marriage Protection Amendment - Nov 04, 2008 YES Yes
FL District 15 - R Primary - Aug 26, 2008 R Bill Posey
FL US President - R Primary - Jan 29, 2008 R John McCain
FL Governor - R Primary - Sep 05, 2006 D Charlie Crist
Supreme Court - Associate Justice - Jan 31, 2006 R Samuel A. Alito Jr.
Supreme Court - Chief Justice - Sep 29, 2005 R John G. Roberts Jr.
FL District 09 - Nov 07, 1978 D Bill Nelson