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Meet New Mexico’s first female governor

Soledad “Lala” Chávez Chacón

I am among those who have written that whoever wins the current governor’s race will be the state’s first woman to serve as governor, and that if Republican Susana Martinez wins, she’ll be the first female Hispanic governor in the nation.

Turns out that’s not accurate because of a two-week period in 1924 when then-Secretary of State Soledad “Lala” Chávez Chacón served as acting governor.

A blog posting on Ms. Magazine’s Web site gives us the details:

“In 1924, a constellation of events – including her ability and readiness – provided the opportunity for Chacón to act as governor of New Mexico. Governor James Hinkle was set to attend the Democratic National Convention in Washington, D.C., when Lieutenant Governor José Baca unexpectedly died. As secretary of state, Chacón was next in line to be acting governor. Many men sought to block Chacón’s appointment, but supporters stepped forward to assure it. Though she was not in a position to dictate policy, she was the state’s leader for two weeks, during which time many people made their way to the capital in Santa Fe to acknowledge and congratulate Governor Chacón.”


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Chacón, according to the article, served two terms as secretary of state and was then elected state representative in 1934. She died in 1936 after complications from surgery.

No woman has been elected to be governor of New Mexico since, though Diane Denish has also served more than once as acting governor during the Richardson years. And, as far as I can tell, no Hispanic woman has been elected governor of any state in the nation before. So, as far as I can tell, it’s still accurate to say that whoever wins the current race will be the first woman elected to be governor of New Mexico (even if she’s not the first woman to serve in that capacity), and that, if Martinez is elected, she will be the first Hispanic woman to be elected governor of any state in the nation.

However, Chacón was breaking barriers long before Denish and Martinez were even born.

Thanks to Democracy for New Mexico, whose blog posting brought the issue to my attention.

A prior version of this posting failed to point out that Denish has served more than once as acting governor during the Richardson years.

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6 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.

  1. Well, whatever happens, NM will have it’s first elected woman governor (finally), and hopefully, we will see a different direction than the usual good ole BOY / patron politics!

  2. Heath, she was not Governor, only acting Governor for the short period of two weeks and she did not dictate any policy while she was holding the seat.

  3. Ha! I just got an e-mail reminding me that Mary Herrera served as acting guv a couple of times while Richardson and Denish were both out of state. I’m just going to leave this comment, rather than updating the post again, because the point is the same: Other women have served as acting governor before, but no woman has ever been elected governor of New Mexico — and that’s the critical point. And no Hispanic woman has ever been elected governor in any state in the nation.

  4. LOL! True Paul… thanks for pushing me to be more exact in my language.

  5. In that case Diane Denish has been the Governor many times.

  6. Great story!!!!!!!!!!!!

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