CASA GRANDE — The new state lawmaker representing Legislative District 11 is a longtime resident of Casa Grande and has lived most of her life within the region, including Arizona City.
Teresa Martinez, a longtime Republican activist, was appointed by the Pinal County Board of Supervisors to fill the seat left vacant by the resignation of Bret Roberts of Maricopa.
Martinez said her deep roots in the area, with numerous friends and family still working in the area, were a big reason why she wanted to step into the state representative role as an advocate for the county.
In fact, Martinez said she was working at the Casa Grande racquetball club as a receptionist when she was first approached to help out with the local Republican Party.
Despite working for Republican firebrand Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, Martinez described herself as a people person during an Oct. 20 interview and said she was willing to listen to anyone, no matter their politics. Martinez said that while working in Gosar’s office, she has helped people obtain passports and fight for their COVID stimulus monies, even if they initially tell her they abhor her or her boss’s politics.
“I can go up to anybody and talk about any issue,” Martinez said. “Part of communication isn’t just talking, but listening. I have my convictions but when it comes down to the needs of people in this county, they are going to come first.”
The district includes the western edge of Casa Grande plus Maricopa, part of Eloy, Arizona City and Saddlebrooke. New districts are being drawn for the 2022 election.
Having worked within the local Republican Party for over 18 years, Martinez cited numerous relationships with state and federal government offices, as well as local Native American tribes and officials at the Mexican embassy.
“I understand how sausage is made,” Martinez said. “The players like me; without any baggage, they will want to work with me.”
Last month, Martinez and San Tan Valley attorney Neal Carter were appointed by the board to represent state Legislative Districts LD11 and LD8, respectively.
Roberts resigned from the Legislature in September without giving a reason. Carter is stepping in for the late Frank Pratt, who died following a long illness.
Martinez cited water and transportation issues, particularly the widening of Interstate 10, as the most important issues for Pinal County.
Despite being adamant she is not “anti-growth,” Martinez said her priority is making sure the county has access to enough water to last several generations. A big component of that, she believes, will be “outside the box” ideas like desalination or floodwater pipelines that connect the Mississippi and Colorado River systems.
Martinez said she has a “deep appreciation” for the agricultural community and chastised politicos from the Phoenix area who she claimed don’t understand its importance.
“I had a state legislator maybe a month ago tell me that if we get rid of one or two farmers we could have thousands of new homes,” Martinez said. “I came back and said, ‘Wait a minute, one farmer doesn’t just feed his family. He’s not gardening. Whether it’s cotton, watermelon, lettuce, jalapenos, they are actually farming to feed us.’”
Gosar is not the only controversial figure Martinez has worked for. She began her political career working for Rep. Rick Renzi, who was convicted on federal charges in 2013 involving racketeering and money laundering.
Martinez first began volunteering for his campaign, and when Renzi sought reelection in 2004, he appointed her to a staff position.
“I was working at Curves in Arizona City,” Martinez said. “The congressman apparently announced that I was working for him. I got a call from his chief of staff, he told me: ‘Hey, you kind of don’t work for Curves anymore, Renzi said you’re the new Eloy staffer, go to the office, open up and wait for further instructions.’”
Though she didn’t have training, Martinez said she had a “gut instinct” for the job. Martinez said jumping between various roles — working on campaigns, switching to work with Gosar — is part of the territory.
“Politics is a temporary gig,” Martinez said. “You are there until somebody gets elected, and when they aren’t you have to go work as a sub or shutterfly, I did all those jobs. But I still stayed passionate for the cause.”
Martinez said she has maintained conservative values over the years, including being pro-life and pro-gun, and limiting government overreach.
Martinez said she will continue working at Gosar’s Gold Canyon office on a part-time basis. She has one son, who is a sophomore in college.
Now that her appointment is confirmed, Martinez said she is hoping to file for election and run as the district’s representative next year.
“I am a person of service,” Martinez said. “People can still sit together and come with how to resolve issues, even if we disagree, even if those issues are very personal. If I don’t get reelected, that is what it is but I will stay true to my convictions, values and beliefs. I know that sounds corny, but it’s true.”