In a tight Senate race that could help flip control of the State Senate, the Republican appointee of Gov. Martinez sent a last-minute attack not so subtly attacking his Democratic opponent for marrying her long-term partner. It’s an attack eerily reminiscent of 1990’s-era attacks leveled against the same woman who was the state’s first openly-gay legislator.
When the State Senate District 39 seat came open in April 2015, Governor Martinez appointed a Republican county commissioner, Ted Barela, to finish out the term in the district that had overwhelmingly voted for a Democrat for years.
That Senate appointment helped Gov. Martinez take one seat from a narrow Democratic majority in the State Senate that has held off many of her programs including more testing for students and private-prison backed bills to incarcerate more New Mexicans.
That seat is one of the most hotly-contested in the state. Republican appointee Ted Barela is running for the seat against a Democratic Santa Fe County Commissioner who held the seat in the 1990s. That woman, Liz Stefanics, was New Mexico’s first openly-gay state legislator.
When she ran in the 1990’s – long before she could marry her partner – Stefanics endured similar attacks. “Anonymous fliers were circulated then calling Stefanics a one-constituency candidate working for “the militant gays and lesbians of Santa Fe,” the Albuquerque Journal reports.
Twenty years later, her Republican opponent, supported by funding from Republican campaigns and PACs from around the state, sent a new last-minute not so subtle attack ad that makes Stefanics’ sexuality and marriage to her long-time partner a front and center issue.
“He’s using coded language to appeal to a certain segment of the population; he’s trying to appeal to those conservative voters who don’t believe American voters should have the right to marry who they choose,” said Neri Holguin, Stefanics’ campaign manager.
–Albuquerque Journal, Oct 31, 2016
Barela is a popular recipient of donations from conservative lawmakers and organizations in the state.
State finance records show that State Rep. David Gallegos, the co-sponsor of the 2015 “religious freedom” law allowing companies to discriminate against LGBT persons, was an early donor providing $500 to Barela in May.
Other prominent donors Barela include:
- Congressman Steve Pearce (R), $2500 June 2016
- Lt. Gov John Sanchez (R), $2500 August 2016
- State Senators Mark Moores, Stuart Ingle, Ron Griggs, Craig Brandt, Bill Payne $2500 each
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