Peña Nieto: A former governor on the path to Mexico's presidency

Story highlights

  • Enrique Peña Nieto was governor of Mexico's most populous state
  • The job catapulted him into the national spotlight
  • Critics say Peña Nieto is too cozy with Mexico's media
  • His proposed drug war strategy has drawn praise in Mexico, concern in the U.S.

Enrique Peña Nieto, the man election authorities project will be Mexico's next president, was the governor of Mexico's most populous state. His wife is a well-known television star.

Since 1984, the 45-year-old lawyer has been building his political career.

He has been a state official, a local lawmaker and a political adviser to the Institutional Revolutionary Party

Peña Nieto projected winner in Mexican presidential vote

His five-year tenure as the governor of the state of Mexico, which surrounds the capital and has more than 15 million residents, catapulted him into the national spotlight.

Some analysts said being governor from 2005 to 2011 also garnered him greater attention not only within the ranks of his party but within the national media.

Officials:  Peña Nieto projected winner
Officials:  Peña Nieto projected winner

    JUST WATCHED

    Officials: Peña Nieto projected winner

MUST WATCH

Officials: Peña Nieto projected winner 02:21
PLAY VIDEO
Peña Nieto poised to win in Mexico
Peña Nieto poised to win in Mexico

    JUST WATCHED

    Peña Nieto poised to win in Mexico

MUST WATCH

Peña Nieto poised to win in Mexico 02:11
PLAY VIDEO
What PRI's return means for Mexico
What PRI's return means for Mexico

    JUST WATCHED

    What PRI's return means for Mexico

MUST WATCH

What PRI's return means for Mexico 03:25
PLAY VIDEO
Calderon addresses Mexican citizens
Calderon addresses Mexican citizens

    JUST WATCHED

    Calderon addresses Mexican citizens

MUST WATCH

Calderon addresses Mexican citizens 02:28
PLAY VIDEO

But not all the attention has been positive.

At times, Peña Nieto's personal life has been tabloid fodder.

He has admitted fathering two kids out of wedlock while married to his first wife, Monica Pretelini Saenz, who died in 2007 after suffering a seizure.

In 2010, he married the prominent actress Angelica Rivera, best known for her role as the domineering tequila maker in the soap opera "Destilando Amor," Spanish for "Distilling Love."

At a recent campaign event his convoy was pelted with rocks by students who feel Peña Nieto had been given a free pass by the media.

Weeks before Sunday's vote, criticisms of Peña Nieto and concerns about the PRI's possible return to power fueled a student movement that staged demonstrations throughout the country.

Peña Nieto's campaign has been based on a series of pledges that he said will increase the quality of life for Mexicans nationwide.

Future of U.S.-Mexico relationship

His platform included plans to stop the rise in food prices, promote energy reform, give social security to all Mexicans and reduce violence nationwide.

"I propose changing fear for hope. I propose changing Mexico," he said in a presidential debate this year.

While his proposals for reducing violence have played well in Mexico, they sparked some concerned among Republican lawmakers on the other side of the border, who worry he may not be as committed to combating cartels as his predecessor.

Peña Nieto's campaign has said he remains committed to fighting organized crime.

"The law is applied; it is never negotiated," the campaign said in a statement this month.

8 things U.S. could learn from Mexico

      Mexico elections

    • MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - JULY 01: Voters wait in line for polls to open for presidential elecitons on July 1, 2012 in Mexico City, Mexico. Mexicans went to the polls nationwide to choose a new president and vote in thousands of state and local posts. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

      Peña Nieto projected winner

      The party that ruled Mexico for more than 70 years appears poised to return to power after election authorities projected Enrique Peña Nieto as the winner of the nation's presidential vote.
    • Mexican presidential candidate for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Enrique PeÒa Nieto (C), celebrates with his family after learning the first official results of the presidential election at the party's headquarters in Mexico City on July 1, 2012. Enrique Pena Nieto, the youthful candidate of the party that governed Mexico for decades, claimed victory late on July 1 in the country's presidential election.  Results announced by the independent Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) showed Pena Nieto with 38 percent of the vote against 31-32 percent for his nearest rival.     AFP PHOTO / Yuri CORTEZ        (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/GettyImages)

      Who is Peña Nieto?

      Enrique Peña Nieto, the man election authorities project will be Mexico's next president, was governor, husband to TV star and a party's next hope.
    • The presidential candidate for Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Enrique Peña Nieto, waves after casting his vote in the presidential elections, in Atlacomulco, state of Mexico, on July 1, 2012.

      Questions linger

      Mexico's election results raise issues rooted in the country's complicated political past that will play a critical role in shaping the nation's future.
    • romo mexican election wrap_00000718

      A return to power

      CNN's Rafael Romo reports on PRI's Enrique Peña Nieto and the return of the old guard.
    • Supporters of the Mexican presidential candidate for the leftist coalition Progressive Movement of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, listen his press conference, in the street in Mexico City, on July 1, 2012. Enrique PeÒa Nieto, the new face of the party that governed Mexico for seven decades, won Sunday's presidential election, according to first official results by the independent Federal Electoral Institute (IFE). PeÒa Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), had around 38 percent of the vote against around 31 percent for his nearest rival, leftist Lopez Obrador from the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), according to the early count.  AFP PHOTO/Pedro PARDO        (Photo credit should read Pedro PARDO/AFP/GettyImages)

      U.S. elections vs. Mexico elections

      How does the U.S. electoral system compare to Mexico's? One expert weighs in on eight things the U.S. system could learn from its southern neighbor.
    • Arcelia Paz desde Guadalajara dice que esperó cuatro horas para emitir su voto, pero sin embargo valió la pena cada minuto de su espera.

      iReport: Voting day

      See and hear from everyday Mexicans on what they thing the election means for them -- and for across the border.
    • Mexico's youth protests

      They sport purple hair and piercings, plaid shirts and plastic aviator glasses. A guy with dreadlocks totes a bongo drum.
    • gps.witw.mexico_00001423

      Mexico on the rise

      Don't let perceptions of Mexico fool you, writes Fareed Zakaria. It is quietly on the rise.
    • CNNMexico.com

      Follow the latest news, features and analysis from a Mexico perspective and in Spanish at CNNMexico.com