Susana vs. Denish: The racial divide and an all-Hispanic ticket
Susana Martinez may have all the momentum in the world, she may have a great marketing plan of anti-Richardson themes, and she may even have the soccer mom from Alaska on her side – but her Achilles heel may be the simple fact that her running mate is a Hispanic as well.
When the GOP powers-that-be went out to make a strong-enough ticket to beat Diane Denish, they assumed Allen Weh would pull it out; therefore they needed to make sure a Hispanic took the victory for lieutenant governor. The science of politics is simple in state wide elections: two Anglos vs. one Hispanic equals a victory for John Sanchez (or pretty much any Hispanic for that matter).
With polls indicating a near tie for Susana and Denish, there are two critical questions that must be answered:
• Will Hispanic Democrats switch party lines and vote for an all-Hispanic Republican ticket?
• Will Anglo Republicans say no to an all-Hispanic ticket?
A history lesson
To further understand the ethnic loyalties that play a part in politics in New Mexico we need to track back to 1960s.
In 1962, after the death of the great U.S. Senator Dionisio “Dennis” Chavez, New Mexico’s three-time Governor Edwin L. Mechem appointed himself to the vacant U.S. Senate seat. Mechem served two years and was up for re-election to the U.S. Senate in 1964 against Congressman Joseph M. Montoya.
Both were seasoned politicians. It was an Anglo Republican vs. a Hispanic Democrat.
Come election night of this epic political battle, it looked bleak for the Hispanic congressman to topple the three-time Anglo governor. With almost all of precincts from the south and Albuquerque reporting, Montoya was down by a whopping 15 percent. Television news reporters were on the scene at both Mechem’s and Montoya’s headquarters. Mechem commented that he was “looking forward to continued service as United States senator.”
But when the reporter asked Montoya about his thoughts on the loss, Montoya replied “I am still confident that we will pull this out – for the north has yet to report.”
And in dramatic fashion the Hispanic north did come through for Montoya (with the help of both political lions, Donaldo “Tiny” Martinez and Emilio Naranjo). Montoya not only made up that 15 percent margin but ended up beating Mechem by 9 percent (54 percent to 45 percent).
Race and ethnicity do play a factor
If history has taught us one thing in New Mexico politics, it is that race and ethnicity do play a factor for a percentage of voters who feel that people of the same ethnicity will represent them the best in government.
Whichever candidate – Susana or Denish – can play the ethnicity card the best will become our first woman governor.
Lopez is the 26-year-old publisher of monthly newspaper the Las Vegas Times, which is distributed in San Miguel, Mora and Guadalupe Counties. He recently was a Democratic candidate for state representative in District 70.
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