Robrt L. Pela

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Kyrsten Sinema

Because Arizona has apparently run out of ways to embarrass itself, our fair state has now taken to publicly mistaking blonde-haired, porcelain-skinned political candidates for Latinas.

No, really. Former state Senator, Kyrsten Sinema, who is now a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House in Arizona’s Ninth Congressional District, was recently identified as “Latina” in a directory published by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO). At NALEO’s annual conference this year in Orlando, the former advocate for Green Party presidential candidate, Ralph Nader, was listed in the nonprofit’s Directory of Latino Elected Officials on the same page as Arizona Latinos like Congressman Ed Pastor and state Senator Steve Gallardo, and included in a PowerPoint presentation section titled, “Latinos in Non-Majority Latino Districts.” 

Sinema didn’t attend the June NALEO conference, which culminated in a pair of public addresses given by President Obama and by presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, and she’s laying low about the whole Latina snafu. Her campaign headquarters has released statements to the effect that they don’t know how this error occurred, and that it’s not their problem, it’s NALEO’s.

Needless to say, no one at NALEO is talking. Their press flacks claim that neither Sinema or her campaign team would have identified the former senator as Latina, but are quick to point out that NALEO membership is open to people of all ethnicities. But the directory is plainly about Latino public servants and elected officials, and membership in the nonprofit policy organization doesn’t come with a random listing in a directory of Latinos.

It’s likely that Sinema’s political opponents and adversaries will make much of this, perhaps placing the blame on Sinema, and implying that she is trying to garner votes from constituents who will vote for anyone listed in a Latino-specific directory. It’s an implausible argument, one that’s easily refuted by the giant signs all over town featuring a comely shot of Sinema, whose fair complexion and bleached-blonde bob hardly scream “chica!” 

But this is Arizona and – at least where politics are concerned – anything is possible.

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