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A political flyer sent across the state by the Republican Party of New Mexico that shows dark-skinned hands cutting a boy’s hair with the implication that the barber is a criminal is being called racist because Democrats contend the barber’s hands were intentionally darkened.
The mailer was sent out to voters in at least nine state House districts in central and southern New Mexico. The advertisement accuses the various Democrats of voting “to allow convicted sex offenders to receive professional licenses for activities such as cutting hair or working as a nail technician.”
Several House Democrats and others gathered at a Martin Luther King Jr. memorial near the Albuquerque Convention Center on Tuesday to condemn the ad.
“This is one of the most vile examples of racist dog whistles that I have ever seen,” said New Mexico House Majority Leader Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque.
At the news conference, Democrats showed the original stock image of a white person cutting a white child’s hair. The altered version shows the hands have been darkened.
Republicans, in response, said a “shadowy, gray” figure doesn’t fit a racial category.
“Any charge of racism over this mailer is ridiculous,” said Rod Montoya, New Mexico House Republican whip. “Charges of racism are simply a smokescreen to distract attention from progressives’ voting records which put the interests of convicted criminals over the safety of law-abiding New Mexicans.”
The districts that received the mailers were in the Albuquerque and Las Cruces areas. The individual Democratic legislator was swapped out but much of the ad stayed the same when it was sent to the House districts, according to Democratic officials.
One of the bills in question was proposed during the 2021 legislative session and sought to modernize the state’s laws governing barbers and cosmetologists, in part by removing a requirement such hair professionals have at least some high school education.
During the House floor debate on the bill, Rep. Stefani Lord, R-Sandia Park, proposed an unsuccessful amendment that would have allowed a barber’s license to be denied or revoked if they failed to register as a sex offender after conviction.
The bill ultimately passed the House on a 48-15 vote, but stalled in a Senate committee. Martinez said another bill that was referenced in the mailer was also related to occupational licenses.
“I thought that we were better than this,” said the Rev. Charles Becknell Sr., the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. “It is time we put an end to this kind of crap. … We’re better than this.”
New Mexico Republicans are trying to cut into majorities that Democrats hold in both chambers. One of the messages they have been campaigning on is crime rates in New Mexico.
House Republican candidates at an event last week promoted a series of bills they said they would support if elected. The bills address pretrial release, firearms trafficking laws, DWI laws, organized retail crime and other elements of the criminal justice system.
Journal Bureau Chief Dan Boyd contributed to this report.