January 2, 2011

AP Item on Susana Martinez’s Inauguration in NM Notes ‘Place in History,’ Omits Status As Nation’s First Latina Gov.

A brief January 1 item from the Associated Press’s Barry Massey on the inauguration of Susana Martinez (“Martinez becomes NM gov as new year starts”) began as follows:

Republican Susana Martinez has claimed her place in history as New Mexico’s first female governor, taking office with the start of the new year.

If it weren’t for the “place in history” part, I might have blown right by it without hesitation. But speaking of a “place in history,” especially at a wire service that sometimes seems overly obsessed with race and racial milestones, it’s more than a little odd that the AP dispatch failed to note what the AP’s Jesse Washington reported on Election Night in November:

Wed Nov 3, 2:24 pm ET

Minorities ride GOP wave to groundbreaking wins

The Republican wave produced groundbreaking results for minority candidates, from Latina and Indian-American governors to a pair of black congressmen from the Deep South.

In New Mexico, Susana Martinez was elected as the nation’s first female Hispanic governor. Nikki Haley, whose parents were born in India, will be the first woman governor in South Carolina, and Brian Sandoval became Nevada’s first Hispanic governor.

Clearly, becoming the first Latina governor in the country is more significant for those who keep score of such things than becoming the first female governor of New Mexico. At a minimum, it’s quite an oversight.

At a maximum, it may just be that someone at the AP does not appreciate the existence of a female Latina who appears to be a genuine conservative with growing star power. An LA Times item by Michael Haederle, containing the predicatble “you’d better not govern like a conservative” warnings, elaborates:

When she takes the oath of office Saturday morning in Santa Fe’s historic plaza, Susana Martinez will become New Mexico’s — and the nation’s — first elected Latina governor.

The 51-year-old, four-term Doña Ana County district attorney is also a rising star in national Republican circles, already being mentioned in the blogosphere as a potential vice presidential candidate in 2012.

But as she takes over from Bill Richardson — a termed-out Democrat whose final two years in office were clouded by federal investigations into pay-for-play allegations — Martinez faces stiff challenges as New Mexico deals with a high unemployment rate and a hefty budget deficit.

“We have to start cutting back on the wasteful spending,” Martinez said in a telephone interview last week as she drove to her hometown of Las Cruces. She wants to sell the state’s $5.5-million jet, pare administrative costs in the education budget and put the state’s generous film industry incentives under the microscope.

Martinez is also considering scaling back the Rail Runner Express commuter train service and is looking to privatize operations at Spaceport America, where Virgin Galactic soon hopes to launch suborbital space flights. She has also promised to reverse a policy of issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and to fight for reinstatement of the death penalty.

Each of these proposals could be seen as a repudiation of Richardson and his expansive approach to state government. “We’re asking people to cut back and not spend as much, but government has not been able to do that,” Martinez said.

… Voters were ready for a change, said state Democratic Chairman Javier Gonzales. But he warns that if Martinez hews too closely to a budget-slashing, tax-cutting agenda she will quickly alienate New Mexicans, many of whom rely on government-funded programs. “There is a real concern among the Democrats about how she is going to prioritize solving the state’s problems,” he said.

Later in the article, Haederle relays a story about how local Republicans invited Ms. Martinez and her husband to lunch to discuss political issues, after which they realized, “Oh my God, we are Republicans! Now what do we do?”

The ultimate to that question came Saturday. You can’t help but wonder if Barry Massey or perhaps someone else at the AP decided that they didn’t like how Susana Martinez answered that question, and determined that readers, viewers and listeners at the wire service’s news, radio and TV outlets should not be made aware of “her place in history” as the nation’s first Latina governor.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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