Edinburg journalist and activist Miriam Martinez said on her campaign website that she’s "the first Latina to run for governor of Texas."
Martinez, who recently filed her candidacy for the 2014 Republican gubernatorial nomination, told us by telephone that she based her self-description, which we saw on Nov. 11, 2013, on research into other Texas women to run for governor. She said Democrats Ann Richards, who won in 1990 and lost in 1994, and Miriam "Ma" Ferguson, who ran five times from 1924 through 1940, were not Latinas.
Martinez further noted that Republican Debra Medina, who like then-Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison challenged Gov. Rick Perry in the 2010 primary, married into her Latina surname after growing up near Beeville as Debra Parker, as the Austin American-Statesman reported in a Feb. 12, 2010, news story.
Toward gauging Martinez’s "first," we tallied all the women to run for governor from 1845 through 2010. Our sources were the 2004-05 Texas Almanac plus historical election results posted online by the Texas Secretary of State’s office.
Our sift--which got us to 15 women--yielded one pre-Martinez candidate clearly identified as Latina. (Skip ahead if you must.)
After Ferguson made her bids, suffragist leader Minnie Fisher Cunningham sought the 1944 Democratic gubernatorial nomination, drawing 48,039 votes and placing second to Coke Stevenson in the nine-candidate field.
Frances Farenthold ranks among the best-known woman to run for governor. Farenthold, who was a legislator, reached a runoff for the Democratic nomination in 1972 and also ran in the 1974 primary, losing both times to Dolph Briscoe.
Other hopefuls fared less well. Benita Louise Marek Lawrence of Brenham ran in the 1950 Democratic primary and Johnnie Mae Hackworthe, also of Brenham, who reportedly once unsuccessfully offered three Jersey cows in lieu of the $1,000 candidate filing fee, was in the 1968 Democratic primary ultimately led by Preston Smith.
In 1972, the Socialist candidate for governor was Deborah Leonard; the same party ran Sherry Smith for governor in 1974 and Sara Jean Johnston in 1978. Sheila Bilyeu ran in the 1986 Democratic gubernatorial primary, finishing second to last in the six-person field. The 1986 Libertarian nominee for governor was Theresa Doyle. When Richards led the Democratic field in 1990, other contenders included Theresa Hearn-Haynes.
And what of Latinas? San Antonio physician Alma Ludivina Aguado garnered 19,273 votes in the seven-person 2010 Democratic gubernatorial primary carried by Houston Mayor Bill White. In a Jan. 4, 2010, press release, Aguado referred to herself as potentially the first Hispanic woman physician to serve as governor. The release said Aguada was born in Eagle Pass on the Texas-Mexico border.
Footnote: Several Latinos have run for governor. Henry B. Gonzalez of San Antonio sought the Democratic nod in 1958 before he went on to win repeated U.S. House terms. Laredo businessman Tony Sanchez became the Democratic nominee for governor in 2002 after besting then-Attorney General Dan Morales and others in the primary.
Also, La Raza Unida nominees lost for governor in the general elections of 1972, 1974 (that’s no typo; governors through ‘74 had two-year terms) and 1978. Separately, Alonso Veloz was a Democratic candidate for governor in 1968 and Democrats Gary Espinosa and Felix (Rodriguez) Alvarado ran in 1994 and 2010, respectively.
By phone, Martinez told us she had not heard of Aguado. Martinez then said that she is the first Latina to run for governor as a Republican. "Perhaps I have to stress that," she said. When we looked a day later, her campaign website newly referred to her as the first Republican Latina to run for governor.
Martinez said that she’s the first Latina to run for governor of Texas.
Election results indicate she is at least the second Latina aspirant behind Aguado, a Democrat who ran in 2010. We rate this claim, since amended on Martinez’s website, as False.
FALSE – The statement is not accurate.
Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.
Telephone interview, Miriam Martinez, Laredo, Nov. 11, 2013
News article, "Debra Medina," Austin American-Statesman, Feb. 12, 2010 (Nexis search)
Entries on gubernatorial election results, 1845 through 1998, Texas Almanac, 2004-05, Dallas Morning News
Web pages, "1992- Current Election History," Texas Secretary of State’s office (accessed Nov. 11, 2013)
Press release, "San Antonio Doctor Joins Race for Texas Governor," Alma Aguado gubernatorial campaign, Jan. 4, 2010
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