Feathered Bastard

Kyrsten Sinema Identified (Wrongly) as Latino by NALEO (w/Update)

Former state Senator Kyrsten Sinema is many things: a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House in Arizona's Ninth Congressional District, a strident advocate for lefty causes, a one-time supporter of erstwhile Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

And, according to the nonprofit National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, she is also a Latina.

In case you're befuddled by Sinema's last name, Selena Gomez she is not. In fact, the Dem could apply to be a spokeswoman for WonderBread, if this politics thing doesn't work out for her.

Nevertheless, in a PowerPoint demonstration created for NALEO's annual conference this year in Orlando, Florida, Sinema is identified under the header, "Latinos in non-majority Latino districts," on the same page as Nevada Legislator John Oceguera. 

And in NALEO's "2011 Directory of Latino Elected Officials," Sinema's listed along with elected Arizona Latinos, such as Congressman Ed Pastor and state Senator Steve Gallardo.

How did Sinema's name end up in the directory? According to Rosalind Gold, Senior Director of Policy, Research and Advocacy at NALEO, details on Sinema's ethnic status likely would have come from either Sinema or someone in her legislative office.

"We rely heavily on self-identification," Gold told me, explaining that the organization would have called Sinema's office to ask if Sinema was Latino.

"If the answer is, `yes,'" said Gold, "we do not generally go farther than that."

Still, not everyone can be "Latino" in NALEO's eyes. Gold stated that NALEO does not consider someone of Portuguese descent to be Latino, for instance. And occasionally there are disputes over who can be considered Latino, with corrections made in later directories.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons