Last month, New Mexico’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Gary King, was at a private fundraiser when he shared an off-the-wall opinion about Gov. Susana Martinez, his Republican opponent.
After paraphrasing remarks he attributed to labor leader Dolores Huerta about the need for voters to distinguish candidates who have “a Latino heart” rather than ones with only a Hispanic surname, King added, “And we know that Susana Martinez does not have a Latino heart.”
That an Anglo politician felt comfortable making such a disparaging, ethnically tinged comment about the nation’s first female Hispanic governor — one who happens to preside over the state with the highest percentage of Latinos in the country — struck many New Mexicans as problematic. When video of King’s comments surfaced, the ensuing outrage was not confined to Martinez and her GOP allies.
“Apparently, the organs of our body now have an ethnicity,” Raul Reyes wrote in a USA Today column that summed up the umbrage taken by many. “King’s jab was misguided and disrespectful to Hispanics. If he wants to go after Martinez, he ought to stick to her record on the issues, not her heritage.”
University of New Mexico political science professor Gabriel Sanchez noted that by implying that he was more attuned to Hispanics than Martinez, King made an elemental linguistic mistake by failing to employ the grammatically correct term “Latina” in reference to a woman. He also said it could boomerang on the challenger.