WASHINGTON — Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, running to replace Sen. Harry Reid in one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country, said it was "offensive" to suggest she isn't Mexican enough because she doesn't speak Spanish.
Cortez Masto was responding to her opponent's former political director, who is also Mexican-American and who had made a sarcastic remark about how Mexican she is. The former aide, Tom McCallister, asked in another tweet: "quick question does @CatherineForNV speak Spanish?"
Cortez Masto told BuzzFeed News the tweets were "offensive" and sought to tie them to her opponent.
"First of all, I think it’s offensive, not just offensive to me, but to the many Mexican-Americans particularly in the state of Nevada who have worked so hard and provided so many contributions," she said.
McAllister is the former political director for Rep. Joe Heck; McAllister left the campaign in June. Cortez Masto argued that the tweet showed who Heck "truly is and that he's not willing to stand for the community because he supports Trump."
The Heck campaign said McCallister does not speak for the campaign.
And she took aim at the idea that she isn't Mexican enough because she doesn't speak Spanish.
"I think its absolutely ridiculous — if that was the litmus test for whether or not you’re Mexican-American then Gov. Sandoval would be thrown into that," she said of the popular Republican governor in Nevada.
A recent Latino Decisions poll showed that Cortez Masto isn't well-known among Latino voters, like other Democrats running for U.S. Senate. The Real Clear Politics polling average calls the race a toss-up, with Heck up four points.
But Cortez Masto clearly believes tying her opponent to Trump and leaning into her background will help her begin to change that. "My grandparents and my father would be very surprised to learn that I am not Mexican-American," she said.
Adrian Carrasquillo is the White House correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Adrian Carrasquillo at email@example.com.
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