Kyrsten Sinema: Being Latina Ain't All It's Cracked Up To Be

See also: Kyrsten Sinema Identified (Wrongly) as Latino by NALEO See also: Can Kyrsten Sinema Win in Congressional District 9? See also: Kyrsten Sinema's Hilary Rosen Moment, and Her Persistent Verbal Flubbery

My Monday blog item discussing Ninth Congressional District candidate Kyrsten Sinema and the "Latina" label incorrectly granted to her by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials garnered loads of attention in the blogosphere and in some traditional media.

I think my favorite item so far has been from the conservative site TheBlaze.com, entitled, "Congressional Candidate Who Looks Like Lady Gaga Wrongly Identified as Hispanic."

Blaze blogger Eddie Scary topped the title by writing that Sinema "couldn't be whiter if she rolled in flour." Heh. Good one, Eddie.

Some local Latinos are not exactly big fans of Sinema, for a variety of reasons. Sinema has the unusual ability to rub even folks who agree with her politically the wrong way, so there are those Latinos who believe Sinema, at the very least, has allowed herself to be thought of as a Latina by some for political benefit.

"I think she feels it would have helped her politically early on," state Senator Steve Gallardo told me. "That she would be able to appeal to a certain segment of her district."

Gallardo's not the only one who feels that way, though he may be the most outspoken. There's no love lost between the pair, and Gallardo has endorsed state Senator David Schapira, who is vying for the Dems' nod in the CD9 primary, along with Sinema and ex-Arizona Democratic Party Chair Andrei Cherny.

Indeed, speaking with Gallardo, you get the feeling that the main reason he's pulling for Schapira is what's referred to among Dems as the "Anyone-But-Sinema" factor.

"When it comes to Kyrsten Sinema, she will do whatever it takes to advance her political career," Gallardo observed of Sinema. "And this is just another part of it."

NALEO referred to Sinema as being a Latina in a power-point presentation given by NALEO's executive director Arturo Vargas on June 21 before NALEO's annual conference in Orlando, Florida this year, and in its 2011 Directory of Latino Officials.

But the Latina/Latino designation has been Sinema's, courtesy of NALEO, for several years now.

As Channel 12's Brahm Resnik reported, Sinema was listed in NALEO's directories going back five years. But NALEO also referred to Sinema as Latina in several other of the organization's publications, including surveys of state races in 2006, 2008, and 2010.

Sinema campaign spokesman Todd McLeod defended his candidate, saying she'd never seen the NALEO publications in question.

"She hadn't read those publications," McLeod stated, adding "She's never misrepresented [her ethnicity] when asked."

Sinema was aware of a lot of what was going on at NALEO. Though she did not attend the 2012 conference, she did re-Tweet a mention of her at the conference as "one to watch" on June 21.

Sinema was just re-Tweeting a supporter's complimentary Tweet, McLeod advised me, shrugging it off.

McLeod also supplied me with a statement of support from state Legislator David Lujan, the Democrat infamous for skipping a crucial vote on Senate Bill 1070 back in 2010, to his eternal chagrin.

(Lujan's entire statement is reproduced below.)

It should also be noted that Lujan took over Sinema's state Senate seat when she left to run for congress earlier this year, and that Sinema campaigned hard for Lujan to nab the appointment.

That said, Lujan does score one point on behalf of his benefactress, when he notes that,

"[V]ersions of NALEO's Profile of Latino Elected Officials showcased both Latino elected officials and strong elected Anglo allies like former Senator Kyrsten Sinema and Senator Linda Lopez."

Indeed, Lopez is not a Latina. She's an Anglo who was once married to a Latino and kept his name. A resident of Tucson, she dedicates a lot of her time to Latino causes, and I'm told even speaks Spanish with a Mexican accent.

Maybe that's why one of Lopez's colleagues contacted for this story, another Latina, believed Lopez was also a Latina.

"I'm not Latina." Lopez laughed when I called her to ask about Latina-gate. "[But some people have said] I may be white on the outside and brown on the inside."

Lopez said she's never asserted or tried to imply that she's Latina. She added that she was flattered that some think she is, when she's not.

The senator stated that she didn't know that NALEO had referred to her as a Latina, though, she did state that she once sat on NALEO's board.

Latina and Latino are ethnic labels, of course. They do not denote race or skin color, per se. Though the labels are subject to certain cultural assumptions.

And everyone knows what happens when you assume...

From the Sinema camp:


Phoenix, AZ - Today, State Senator David Lujan offered the following statement regarding recent news that Kyrsten Sinema was mistakenly identified as a Latina elected official in the National Organization of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials' training documents and directories.

"NALEO is a vital resource for elected officials who believe in strengthening the voice of our Latino and allied communities. Their leadership in expanding political opportunity for our communities is essential for the goal of truly representative government.

"NALEO has acknowledged that while ethnicity is not a criterion for membership, Sinema was mistakenly included in the 2011 Directory of Latino Elected Officials.

"The truth is, Sinema has never misrepresented herself. She has been a strong Anglo ally of the Latino community and has never represented herself as anything other than that. She has identified herself as Anglo and has done so each time that she applied for membership at NALEO, an organization that she has been a long-standing member of.

"It is unfortunate that Sinema's political opponents chose to initiate a cynical narrative based on an administrative error, an honest mistake made by the organization. Similarly, versions of NALEO's Profile of Latino Elected Officials showcased both Latino elected officials and strong elected Anglo allies like former Senator Kyrsten Sinema and Senator Linda Lopez.

"Attacks like this are unfair to the organization's aims and distracts from our goal of broadening civic leadership in our Latino communities; a goal that can only be accomplished by cultivating new Latino leaders and encouraging determined non-Latino allies."

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