Posted: Thursday, May 15, 2014 10:29 am | Updated: 3:09 pm, Thu May 15, 2014. Milan Simonich
State Rep. Miguel Garcia turned out to be everything he said he detested.
Garcia, D-Albuquerque, once gave a long, impassioned speech on the floor of the House of Representatives in which he said racism was still alive and dangerous. Then he read a letter from an anonymous man who threatened Garcia because of his support for a law that enables people without proof of immigration status to obtain New Mexico driver’s licenses.
But when it came to politicking, Garcia never hesitated to resort to stereotypes, race and racial divides in hopes of getting his candidates elected.
In an email this week intended to raise money for two Hispanic candidates for seats in the House, Garcia also resorted to the type of name calling that he previously denounced. This is some of what Garcia wrote in a his endorsement of Democratic House candidates Andrew Barreras and Frank Otero.
“A minority of unsuspecting Democratic leaders are supporting the Democratic Anglo newcomer opponents in Andrew’s and Frank’s primary races. Anglo Democrats with egos as big as Texas, mouths as big as the Grand Canyon, and much “green” mula (sic) from the east and the west coast.”
Garcia went on to describe his candidates as “homegrown native New Mexicans with deep roots in traditional family values, church, and community building. Who would not support such fine gentlemen in the primary election on June 3?”
Garcia hit the trifecta. He succeeded in being parochial, sexist and politically naive, all in one sophomoric paragraph.
Barreras is one of two Democratic candidates running in House District 7. That is a race Barreras lost in 2012 and also in 2010, when he was the incumbent.
Republican Rep. Kelly Fajardo defeated Barreras in the last election by less than 1 percentage point. Democrats, who control the House 37-33, see Fajardo as especially vulnerable as they try to hold their advantage. Fajardo alienated House colleagues and countless people when she intentionally skipped a vote on raising New Mexico’s minimum wage.
Fajardo would never admit it, but she would much prefer to run against Barreras than the “Anglo” that Garcia disparaged. She is Teresa Smith de Cherif, a physician who has none of Barreras’ baggage.
Barreras, a businessman, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in between his two election defeats.
When asked in an Albuquerque Journal questionnaire in 2012 if he had ever been involved in a bankruptcy, Barreras said: “Yes, I filed for bankruptcy on my investments — the economic downturn hit us hard.”
Barreras would make a big and inviting target for Gov. Susana Martinez’s political team as it tries to protect Fajardo from defeat and give Republicans a shot at controlling the House. Martinez’s camp knows full well that Smith de Cherif would be a much tougher opponent for Fajardo.
As for Garcia, he has apologized.
But it is also true that he had to. His own Democratic colleagues in the House were hurt and angered by what he wrote.
Garcia is a man who always said that New Mexico celebrates its diversity. He preached about tolerance and friendship in a melting pot state.
Then, after much deliberation, he wrote his endorsement of politicians based on race. For Garcia, race trumped qualifications. Race was more important than drive and talent. Race defined campaigns.
So the next time Garcia rises on the House floor to give one of his stem-winders, few will listen. Even those who do will not take him seriously. Everyone will know that Garcia’s words ring hollow.