Robert Martinez (born December 25, 1934) is a retired American politician who served as the 40th Governor of Florida from 1987 to 1991; he was the first person of Spanish ancestry to be elected to the state's top office. Prior to that, he was the mayor of Tampa from 1979 to 1986.
|Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy|
March 28, 1991 – January 20, 1993
|President||George H. W. Bush|
|Preceded by||Bill Bennett|
|Succeeded by||John Walters (Acting)|
|40th Governor of Florida|
January 6, 1987 – January 8, 1991
|Preceded by||Wayne Mixson|
|Succeeded by||Lawton Chiles|
|Mayor of Tampa|
October 1, 1979 – July 16, 1986
|Preceded by||Bill Poe|
|Succeeded by||Sandra Freedman|
|Born||December 25, 1934|
Tampa, Florida, U.S.
|Political party||Democratic (Before 1983)|
|Spouse(s)||Mary Jane Marino (m. 1954)|
|Education||University of Tampa (BS)|
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (MS)
Bob Martinez was born in Tampa, Florida on December 25, 1934, the only child of Serafin Martinez and Ida Carreno Martinez. His grandparents were Spanish immigrants who had come to Tampa from the province of Asturias to find work in the Spanish/Cuban/Italian neighborhood of Ybor City. Bob Martinez's mother was a seamstress and his father was a waiter at the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, and the family lived in Ybor City and West Tampa during his youth.
Martinez graduated from Jefferson High School in 1953 and earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Tampa in 1957. For several years, he taught civics at local high schools. He went back to college and earned a master's degree in labor and industrial relations at the University of Illinois in 1964, then returned to Tampa and worked as a business labor consultant and an economics instructor at the University of Tampa.
In 1965, Martinez was named the executive director of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association (HCTA), the local teachers' union in Hillsborough County. In 1968, the HCTA joined the Florida Education Association's statewide teacher strike in support of more education funding and collective bargaining rights for teachers. Though the labor action was seemingly unsuccessful in the short term, its goals were gradually met over the following few years through court and legislative actions. In 1971, Martinez and the HCTA negotiated the first union contract for Hillsborough County teachers.
In 1974, Martinez unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Tampa against William "Bill" Poe. He resigned as executive director of the HCTA in 1975 and was appointed vice chairman of the Southwest Florida Water Management District by Florida Governor Reubin Askew. He also ran Cafe Sevilla, his family's restaurant in West Tampa.
Martinez campaigned for mayor against Poe again in 1979 and won. During Martinez's term of office, the city built one of America's first waste-to-energy plants, opened a large performing arts center and a modern convention center, completely reconstructed Lowry Park Zoo, restored the 1915 City Hall building, and annexed thousands of acres of unincorporated land northeast of town that would become the neighborhood of New Tampa.
Although the mayor's office is nonpartisan, Martinez was known to be a Democrat. However, in 1983, he changed his party affiliation to Republican after meeting with Ronald Reagan when the president was in Tampa to give a speech, causing some dismay among local supporters and leading to speculation that he may eventually run for higher office. Martinez's national profile increased in 1984, when he delivered a speech at the Republican National Convention, and in 1985, when he was elected to the board of directors of the National League of Cities.
In early 1985, Martinez began actively exploring the possibility of running for governor of Florida, and he formally announced his candidacy in November of that year. In July 1986, he resigned as mayor of Tampa to devote all of his time to the gubernatorial campaign.
Martinez defeated former U.S. Representative Louis Frey, Jr., of Winter Park in the Republican gubernatorial primary election and Democratic state representative Steve Pajcic in the general election. With the election victory, Martinez became the second Republican governor of Florida since Reconstruction and the first (and thus far, only) Hispanic governor in Florida history. He was inaugurated on January 6, 1987.
As governor, Martinez initiated America's largest environmental land acquisition program, Preservation 2000. He proposed the Surface Water Improvement Management act that protects Florida's surface waters, including Lake Okeechobee, Tampa Bay, Lake Jackson, the Kissimmee River, and other areas. He helped get Florida's first solid waste management law passed and implemented Florida's Growth Management Act. He was an advocate of laws and rules that protected manatees and dolphins. He aggressively sought to eliminate wasteful spending projects sponsored by members of the legislature, and increased spending on the state's drug control programs. For a time, Martinez was regarded as a "rising star" in Republican politics.
In 1987, following the destruction of the Space Shuttle Challenger the previous year, Martinez appointed a number of aerospace industry and community leaders to the "Florida Governor's Commission on Space." This concept was undertaken by Stephen Lee Morgan, vice chairman and executive director of the Florida Space Business Roundtable, Inc., a non-profit organization of Central Florida aerospace industry executives. Martinez appointed Martin Marietta executive A. Thomas Young as chairman of the Commission, with then-Florida Secretary of Commerce Jeb Bush (later Governor of Florida himself), as vice chairman. The Commission was widely hailed as a leader in the arena of state-sponsored economic development initiatives in the aerospace industry, and led to the establishment of the Spaceport Florida Authority, following the release of its formal report, "Steps to the Stars" in 1988 (drafted under the direction of the Florida Department of Commerce's Dr. Chris Shove). While now defunct, the Florida Spaceport Authority did orchestrate several commercial launches from unused launch facilities at Cape Canaveral, Florida, including America's return to the moon with an unmanned orbiting vehicle aboard a Lockheed Martin rocket, the Athena (then called the "Lockheed Launch Vehicle" or "LLV"). The Authority was succeeded by an organization known as "Space Florida." The purpose of the Commission was to identify approaches and specific actions which the State might take to mitigate Florida's reliance on the Space Shuttle program as an employer in the space industry. Results were mixed, with some successes and a number of programs which bore little fruit.
Martinez hit a bump in the political road. In order to raise more revenue for the state, the Florida legislature passed a sales tax on services with Martinez's support. The response from Floridians was strongly negative, so only two months after the tax went into effect, Martinez called the legislature back for a special session to repeal it.
Though the tax was repealed and replaced by a traditional sales tax on goods, the perceived flip-flop on the issue seriously hurt the governor's credibility among Floridians and reduced his ability to get his initiatives enacted.
In 1989, Martinez vowed to "clear Death Row" and signed over 90 death warrants, some of which did not pass all state and federal appeals. That same year Martinez ordered state prosecutors to determine whether Miami-area rappers 2 Live Crew's album Nasty as They Wanna Be violated Florida obscenity laws. As a result, record store owners were arrested for selling the album and members of the group were arrested after a concert. All arrested parties were eventually acquitted. On Banned in the USA, their follow-up album, 2 Live Crew included a song entitled Fuck Martinez.
In the Fall of 1989, after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed states greater flexibility to restrict abortions, Martinez promptly called the Florida Legislature into special session in an effort to pass anti-abortion laws. The special session was a debacle as none of the governor's proposals made it out of committee and his approval ratings sank to around 24%.
In 1990, TIME magazine referred to Martinez as "embattled" as he authorized a statewide television advertisement campaign boasting his deeds, which were largely unpopular. It wasn't enough to get him a second term, though, as he suffered a landslide defeat in the 1990 gubernatorial election against former Democratic United States Senator Lawton Chiles.
After leaving the governor's office on January 8, 1991, Martinez was appointed by President George H. W. Bush to the cabinet rank position of Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (or "Drug Czar") where he served until January 20, 1993.
Since then, Martinez has served as a consultant to Florida-based businesses and law firms and is a political analyst for Bay News 9 television. He is a trustee of the University of Tampa, and a director of the Hillsborough Education Foundation, Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo and the Tampa Bay History Center, all local nonprofit groups involved in some way with education.
Bob Martinez married the former Mary Jane Marino in 1954, soon after they graduated from Tampa Jefferson High School. They have two children, Robert Alan Martinez and Sharon Martinez.
| Mayor of Tampa
| Governor of Florida
| Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy
|Party political offices|
| Republican nominee for Governor of Florida