Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca of Belen mentioned Monday he had apologized to Veterans Services Secretary-designate Sonya Smith for what he referred to as “that insensitive line of questioning.”
Baca has been beneath hearth for questions and feedback with racial overtones he made throughout a Friday affirmation listening to for Smith.
“Do you expect that in your time here, in seven years, that you’ve been immersed in this culture enough in this state that you feel comfortable entering a position?” Baca had requested Smith, who’s Black. He famous 2.6 % of the state’s inhabitants is African American, whereas “48 percent is Hispanic or a Hispanic mix. Do you feel like you are comfortable adequately representing both cultures — white, Native, Hispanics?”
Smith responded by asking the top-ranking Republican within the Senate to make clear his query.
“Are you asking do I feel comfortable representing the Department of Veterans Services as a Black woman? Is that what you are asking?” Smith requested Baca.
Smith, by a spokesman, declined a request for an interview on the problem over the weekend.
“At this time, Secretary-designate Smith is respectfully declining to do any interviews until after her official confirmation, which we understand will take place this week,” Department of Veterans Services spokesman Ray Seva wrote in an e mail.
Last week, Baca issued a press release about his line of questioning, which some mentioned was laced with an undercurrent of racism.
Baca didn’t apologize. Instead, he wrote that as a minority veteran himself, he considered the position of head of Veterans Services “as one that must consider every facet of our diverse culture in New Mexico.”
At the beginning of Monday’s Senate Rules Committee assembly, Baca, a U.S. Navy veteran, knowledgeable senators he had apologized to Smith, who served as a U.S. Air Force reservist.
“I wanted to let the body know that I spoke to her and did apologize to her for that insensitive line of questioning that I did lead her through,” he mentioned. “We had a great conversation and talked about New Mexico and our families and really just a great lady that I plan on supporting on the [Senate] floor,” the place she’s going to face a affirmation listening to earlier than the complete Senate.
Baca mentioned he additionally needed to prolong an apology to the Senate and acknowledged the incident has stirred controversy.
“I certainly understand that a couple of you probably had some unwanted attention as a byproduct of my actions and I sure did not want to lay that on your shoulders,” he mentioned. “And I do not want it to detract from the good work that we have done so far and the work that I expect that we’ll do going forward. So, I appreciate your indulgence this morning. I look forward to a productive week and getting some things done for the people of New Mexico.”
Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, chairman of the committee, thanked Baca “for those words.”
“Very much appreciated,” the Albuquerque Democrat mentioned.
Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.