New Mexico Democrats condemn 'racist' mail ad and urge GOP to distance themselves from it

Democrats in New Mexico are calling on the state's Republican Party to distance themselves from a GOP mail advertisement that was condemned by the Democrats are racist.

According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the mail ad was paid for by the New Mexico GOP, and was distributed among nine House districts that are considered up for grabs during the midterms. The New Mexican displayed a picture of the ad, which depicts a stock photo in which a pair of dark hands is cutting the hair of a depressed-looking young boy.

"Your state representative...voted to allow convicted sex offenders to receive professional licenses for activities such as cutting hair or working as a nail technician, leaving unsuspecting women and children vulnerable to predators," the ad says. "Do you want a sex offender cutting your or your child's hair?"

Santa Fe New Mexican

The ad quickly incited backlash from Democrats and activists across the state, who decried the ad as racist. In particular, criticism was aimed at the fact that the person's hands in the ad had reportedly been digitally altered to appear darker.

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“These images leave scars,” Rev. Charles E. Blacknell, president of the New Mexico chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said during a press conference. “I say to my fellow New Mexicans: It is time that we put an end to this kind of crap. Excuse my French. But we’re better than this, and we need to demonstrate to our fellow New Mexicans this is not acceptable."

Becknell's comments followed an earlier statement in which he said, “Digitally darkening the skin tone of the person in this ad, while suggesting they are a sexual predator, is blatantly racist and completely inexcusable.”

Republicans in the state, though, were quick to turn the tables, arguing that the ad was not racist, and said that it was a "ridiculous" argument from the left.

New Mexico House Republican Whip Rod Montoya (R-Farmington) said that the ad was darkened not to change the skin color of the hands, but to make the boy appear "shadowy," and said that Democrats on the flip side of the ad were similarly darkened.

“These progressives in the legislature just continue to choose the rights of convicted criminals over victims and over public safety,” Montoya said in a statement. “That’s the issue, so they’re trying to make this about racism when the person is obviously gray. The hands look more like Gollum from 'Lord of the Rings.'"

However, New Mexico House Majority Leader Javier Martínez (D-Albuquerque) was not buying the GOP's argument, and said that the mailer may have already influenced voters across New Mexico.

“I’ve been in politics a long time, both as an elected official [and] as an advocate probably more than 20 years. This is one of the most vile examples of racist dog whistles that I have ever seen," Martínez said during a news conference. "Luckily, New Mexicans are way too smart to fall for these hateful tricks.”