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

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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.

Gold said she believed Sinema had been in previous NALEO directories, but that even if she had, it would not mean she would automatically appear in subsequent editions. 

"We ask every single time," Gold explained.

Gold was quick to point out that membership in NALEO is open to all, and Sinema is a past NALEO member. But the directory itself is supposed to be a list of Latino elected officials. Membership in NALEO does not guarantee a spot in the directory. 

Sinema for Congress spokesman Rodd McLeod insisted that Sinema has never identified herself as a Latina. When I asked what she identified herself as, he responded, "as 
an Anglo."

McCloud said the campaign learned about the issue on Friday and that it was being shopped around by Sinema's political enemies.

"It's not our mistake, it's NALEO's mistake," McLeod stated. "They'll have to fix it."

The spokesman said that on her membership application, Sinema had checked a box for "Anglo," so the campaign doesn't know how the error happened.

I asked Gold to confirm McLeod's statement, but she said that the information on NALEO membership forms is considered confidential.

In financial disclosure forms filed with the Arizona Secretary of State's Office, Sinema lists receiving gifts of over $500 in 2010 and in 2011 from a "NALEO conference."

Sinema did not attend the June meeting in Orlando, Gold told me. 

This year's conference was notable for dueling addresses given by President Barack Obama and his Republican rival, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Given that Romney is the uber-Anglo of all Anglos, who would want to follow in that stiff's wingtipped footsteps? 

If the National Council of La Raza started handing out "Honorary Latino" passes for righteous ofays tomorrow, I'd be signing up and changing my last name to Limones faster than you can say chicharrones.

UPDATE July 10, 2012: NALEO today issued the statement below.

NALEO Statement on Former Arizona State Senator Kyrsten Sinema

Washington, D.C. - The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) issued the following statement regarding the inclusion of Former Arizona State Senator Kyrsten Sinema in the 2011 Directory of Latino Elected Officials:

"NALEO is proud to serve as the leadership organization of the nation's more than 6,000 Latino elected and appointed officials. While the vast majority of our members identify themselves as Latino or Hispanic, this is not a criterion for membership in the NALEO organization.

"Many elected or appointed officials have joined NALEO because they represent Latino constituents and want to serve as more effective policy makers and public servants in their communities.

"As NALEO members, these officials have access to considerable resources and support that enable them to better serve their constituents and communities. These resources include access to numerous publications and professional development seminars, including the National Institute for Newly Elected Officials and the annual Directory of Latino Elected Officials.

"We have recently become aware that Former Arizona State Senator Kyrsten Sinema was mistakenly included in our 2011 Directory of Latino Elected Officials. Senator Sinema has informed us that she is not Latina and we will work to ensure this is reflected in future editions of the directory and other informational materials.

"Senator Sinema is a past member of NALEO in good standing with the organization. While the Senator is not a current member of NALEO, we would welcome her back should she serve in an elected or appointed official capacity in the future.

"The directory is designed only as a database for elected officials who designate themselves as Latino or Hispanic. NALEO relies on the elected officials and staff to indicate whether they are Latino for inclusion in this database.

"NALEO Executive Director Arturo Vargas has initiated an internal review of the directory process to ensure the organization continues to provide the most accurate and timely information possible."

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