Last night, shortly before 9 p.m., Ronnie Sykes, the spokeswoman for Congressman Charlie Rangel’s re-election campaign sent out a press release announcing Assemblyman Guillermo Linares’ endorsement of Mr. Rangel. The release identified Mr. Linares as the “first Dominican elected official in the U.S.” Less than two hours later, Ms. Sykes sent out a modified press release calling Mr. Linares “the first Dominican elected to a major political office in the United States.” Ms. Sykes confirmed to The Politicker that the press release was corrected because Mr. Linares is, in fact, not the first Dominican elected official.
Mr. Linares was elected to the New York City Council on November 5, 1991. Twenty four hours earlier and just about five miles away from Mr. Linares’ Council district, a woman named Kay Palacios was elected to the City Council of Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.
The discrepancy was first identified in 2010 in New Jersey Dominicans: A Decade of Accomplishments, a study released by the Conference on Dominican Affairs that was produced by Dr. María Teresa Feliciano of the Institute for Latino Studies and Néstor Montilla of the Common Roots Project.
Prior to the study, Mr. Linares was commonly considered the first Dominican elected official in the United States. Dr. Feliciano and Mr. Montilla discovered the mistake after interviewing a New Jersey political activist named Lucilo Santos.
“Guillermo was elected in 1991 and he is deemed by all reported accounts as the first Dominican elected official in the United States,” Mr. Santos said in a press release announcing the results of the study. “However, here in New Jersey, a Dominican woman who was also elected on the same year, went unnoticed because in the ‘Big Metropoli’ Guillermo captured all the media’s attention.”
Before Dr. Feliciano and Mr. Montilla released their report, Mr. Linares believed he was the first Dominican to hold public office in the United States. Ms. Palacios is the daughter of an opponent of the former Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo and her family escaped his regime by fleeing to America, where she was born. Mr. Linares, who was born in the Dominican Republic, is correctly identified in his official State Assembly biography as “the first Dominican born elected to public office in the United States,” but he reportedly told the Gotham Gazette he was “the first Dominican elected to public office in the country” several months after the study was released and he is still regularly identified as America’s first Dominican public official in press reports.