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N.M. Gubernatorial Spanish-Language Debate Part Of Trend

 / Updated 

Though the overwhelming majority of New Mexico's Hispanics speak English, the state's gubernatorial candidates participated in a Univision-sponsored Spanish-language debate on Monday, part of a growing trend across the country.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, the nation's first Hispanic woman governor, debated Democrat candidate Gary King. Martinez won around 38 percent of the Latino vote in 2010. King sparred with Martinez over her opposition to the state law allowing immigrants in the country illegally to obtain driver's licenses. Martinez has long opposed the law, saying it's a safety issue.

As the Latino electorate grows, more candidates are participating in Spanish-language debates, mainly with the use of translators, as King did in New Mexico. Florida's gubernatorial candidates have a Spanish-language debate Friday. Last Saturday, California Republican Congressman David Valadao and his rival, Democrat Amanda Renteria debated entirely in Spanish.

Political scientist Matt Barreto said participation in Spanish-language debates is a way to acknowledge Hispanic voters.

"Everyone remembers (former Texas Gov.) George W. Bush speaking Spanish, even though it was bad," Barreto said. "He ended up in the White House."

--The Associated Press

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