Rep. Ruben Gallego (D., Ariz.) accused Tanya Contreras Wheeless, a Hispanic woman running for Congress in Arizona’s fourth district as a Republican, of not being authentically Latina because she took her husband’s last name.
Gallego suggested that Wheeless deliberately "hid" her Hispanic identity before running for office to avoid discrimination. "If you were Latino in Arizona around 2010 people were telling us to go back to Mexico," he said, "you would hear I am not voting for a ‘spic.’"
"Tanya is Latina," Gallego tweeted, "cuando le conviene," meaning, "when it suits her."
Following Republican Mayra Flores's upset victory this year in Texas's 34th Congressional District, which had traditionally been a Democratic stronghold, liberal pundits have smeared conservative Latinas. CNN said the conservative Hispanic women running for Congress were "not the ‘real deal,’" whereas the New York Times referred to the "Rise of the Far-Right Latina."
Democrats have sought to mend their faltering ties with the Latino community ahead of the 2022 election. Some of those gestures have fallen flat. First Lady Jill Biden, for instance, received backlash for suggesting that Hispanics are "as unique as ... breakfast tacos" at a Latinx IncluXion Luncheon in San Antonio.
Wheeless hit back at Gallego in a statement by pointing out that "many women change their name when they get married, but that doesn’t change who they are or where they came from." She called the jab "sexist and racist" and bemoaned how common attacks like Gallego’s have become.
Gallego’s ex-wife Kate Gallego, formerly Kate Widland, kept the influential congressman's last name following their divorce in 2017 and subsequently was elected mayor of Phoenix. She is the daughter of white Jewish attorneys from Chicago.