SANTA FE – A Rio Rancho clergyman and civil rights leader faults Gov. Susana Martinez for not speaking out after the recent murders in a South Carolina church, a criticism her spokesman labeled “ridiculous.”
The Rev. Charles Becknell, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of New Mexico, says the governor’s lack of public comment underscores what he views as the Republican governor’s frayed relationship with the state’s African-American community.
The nine South Carolina victims – including the pastor, who was also a state senator – were gunned down in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston last month, allegedly by a 21-year-old white man who had joined them at a Bible study class.
The governor did not issue a public statement. But she “was, and is, heartbroken by the tragedy and senseless violence that occurred in South Carolina,” spokesman Chris Sanchez said.
“She has personally called Governor Nikki Haley to offer her thoughts, prayers and support. (She also praised Gov. Haley for her decision to call for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina capitol),” Sanchez wrote in an email.
The flag was removed from outside the South Carolina Capitol on July 10.
Meanwhile, some African-American Republican lawmakers commended the governor’s outreach and efforts, and said the blacks she has tapped during her tenure have been very strong appointments.
But Becknell, the pastor of Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church in Rio Rancho, wrote to Martinez on June 23, saying many predominantly African-American churches in New Mexico were grieving the Charleston killings and “need to hear from you … need this expression of concern from your office.”
In an interview with the Journal, Becknell reiterated his long-standing criticism of the governor for what he contends is her failure to appoint black New Mexicans to high-level positions in state government.
And he said he wanted Martinez to “just bring some comfort to the people and let us know she understands what we’re going through.”
He said he got no response to his letter.
Sanchez said it was “shameful” for Becknell “to try to use a national tragedy to score political points on other issues.”
Source: Albuquerque Journal | Deborah Baker