Posted: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 7:10 pm | Updated: 7:33 am, Thu May 15, 2014.
By Steve Terrell
The New Mexican | 9 comments
Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, on Wednesday apologized to two legislative candidates he had disparaged earlier this week in an email to some legislative colleagues.
Garcia’s email to other state Democratic leaders about legislative primary races in Valencia County said, “A minority of unsuspecting Democratic leaders are supporting the Democratic Anglo newcomer opponents in [Andrew Barreras’] and [Frank Otero’s] primary races. Anglo Democrats with egos as big as Texas, mouths as big as the Grand Canyon, and much ‘green’ [moolah] from the east and the west coast.”
Garcia’s email, first reported by KRQE TV on Tuesday, also said, “Treachery in our ranks undermine Barreras & Otero.”
One of those races — in House District 7, currently represented by freshman Rep. Kelly Fajardo, R-Los Lunas — is a swing district that Democrats hope to pick up in the general election. Both Democrats and Republicans have said it’s one of the 10 races that could determine the control of the New Mexico Legislature.
But on Wednesday, after some Democratic leaders — including candidate Otero — called on Garcia to apologize, he did.
In a letter to Otero’s opponent, Jim Danner, Garcia said, “I used inappropriate language to define your character. Regardless of what I think your reasons are for running for State Rep — I want to ask for your forgiveness regarding the negative manner in which I questioned your character or campaign pursuits.
“It is not in me to speak negatively of fellow Democrats, or anyone for that fact, that I am not personally acquainted with or familiar with,” Garcia said in his apology. “In my legislative career I pride myself on always taking the ‘moral high ground’ on issues of bigotry, discrimination, inequality, prejudice, intolerance, hatred — I faltered in reaching that in my email.”
Contacted Wednesday, Danner said he received Garcia’s email and talked to him on the phone. Tanner said he accepted the apology. “I believe he was sincere.” A retired school principal and basketball coach, Danner said, “I’ve been called names before.”
But, Danner said, “I just wish he would have called me before he wrote those things. … I’ve been in New Mexico since 1949. And I don’t have any money.” But he said the campaign should be focused on the issues — education and the economy — and not “these peripheral matters.”
Otero on Wednesday said he was glad Garcia apologized. “I cringed when I read [Garcia’s original] email,” Otero said, “My grandma was half Anglo. And my grandchildren are half Anglo, too.” Discussing his opponent’s ethnicity “was not the route I wanted to go. I don’t condone that.”
Otero and Danner are running for the state House seat now held by Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas.
Garcia also apologized to Teresa Smith de Cherif, who is Barreras’ primary opponent. She said Wednesday that in addition to the email apology, she also had a phone conversation with Garcia. “Some people say things in the heat of passion without knowing the facts,” Smith de Cherif said. “His apology was equally passionate.” She said she admired Garcia for being willing to admit his mistake.
House Speaker Kenny Martinez, D-Grants, also called her Wednesday to tell her Garcia’s remarks were inappropriate, she said.
Smith de Cherif explained that her grandfather was a copper miner in the Southwest, and her family has six generations of Spanish speakers.
Barreras couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.
Garcia’s original email, in support of Otero and Barreras, said both candidates “were born and raised in New Mexico and are seasoned political, community, and Catholic church leaders. They are our only ray of HOPE in winning back a voice for the people in Valencia County.”
Before Garcia made his apology public Wednesday, Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, who was sent a copy of the original email, said, “The comments and use of candidates’ race as a way to motivate campaign donations are wrong and deeply troubling. I think Miguel should offer an apology and move on from talk about electing people based on the color of their skin.”
In his original email, Garcia also made some colorful comments about the Republican lawmakers in the races. Fajardo, he said, is a “loyal lap dog of Gov [Susana] Martinez’s extremists [sic] agenda.” Baldonado, he wrote, “always falls in line every time Gov. Martinez snaps her blood stained fingers.”
And he called maverick Democratic Rep. Sandra Jeff, who frequently sides with Republicans on certain issues, “a renegade Democrat who licks the governor’s arm pits.” Jeff, who lists her residence as Crownpoint, is running for re-election as a write-in candidate after failing to get enough valid signatures on a nominating petition.
Staff writer Milan Simonich contributed to this report.