The recent election was notable for a number of reasons, one of which being the first Latina governor was elected, Susana Martinez, to the state of New Mexico. She ran as a Republican against Diane Denish, only the third woman vs. woman gubernatorial race in the nation’s history. The race, not surprisingly, was characterized by a number of smear campaigns including one against Martinez claiming she was “bought and paid for by a Texas billionaire,” apparently referring to the fact that she was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. The commercial in question refers to Martinez as a Tejana and the debacle has since been referred to as the “Tejana accusation.”
Firstly, the implication that being Tejana is something one can be “accused” of suggests a gross misunderstanding of the word. Secondly, the framing of the campaign implied that by referring to Martinez as Tejana somehow called into question her credibility as a politician in New Mexico. However, the fact that both parties, including the woman behind the “accusation”, accepted out of state money, suggests other motives behind this rhetoric. It is clear her opponent meant to suggest that Martinez’s loyalties lie in Texas rather than New Mexico, that it would be impossible or at least highly unlikely for a Tejana to be impartial.
Martinez ran on a platform calling for the tightening of America’s boarder with Mexico, securing it against illegal immigrants, a popular Republican refrain in this year’s election. The election marked a groundbreaking year in the number of Republican Latinos elected as governor and to the legislature. In an article on the election, Richard Ivory, a political consultant and founder of hiphoprepublican.com is quoted as saying, “Race is becoming less of an issue.” While the results are encouraging, this may be an overly optimistic assessment as the election does not necessarily mean any real change in policy, or representation of Latino’s interests, let alone change in the rhetoric used to characterize the candidates in the election itself.