Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 | 12:46 p.m.
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto called on her Republican opponent Joe Heck to apologize today after two of his former campaign aides called her Mexican heritage into question Thursday on social media.
Her opponent’s former political director, Tom McCallister, said on Twitter that Cortez Masto’s Mexican heritage was the kind that’s only “relevant when applying for scholarships … or running for (U.S. Senate).” In another tweet, McCallister asked whether she spoke Spanish, which Cortez Masto viewed as another suggestion that she wasn't Mexican enough.
Cortez Masto is half-Mexican and half-Italian, with her dad’s family hailing from Mexico.
Another former Heck aide, Mark Ciavola, accused Cortez Masto of “Hispandering” — or pandering to the Hispanic community — in a Facebook comment.
“Hispandering at its finest,” Ciavola wrote. “That’s why so many Hispanic leaders in Nevada support Joe Heck.”
Both McAllister and Ciavola, Heck’s campaign manager in 2014 and 2016, left the campaign in the spring.
“Congressman Heck and his allies would rather attack my character, would rather attack my heritage,” Cortez Masto told reporters today. “That's not what this race is about, but you have seen that happening from Donald Trump all the way down to Congressman Heck, who refuses to denounce it. He should publicly come out and denounce what those aides are saying.”
Asked why Heck should answer for something his former campaign aides said on social media, Cortez Masto said that Heck should stand up and denounce any kind of divisive rhetoric.
“We have not seen him stand up to denounce any type of divisive rhetoric whether it's coming from his former aide or whether it's coming from Donald Trump and that's just as complicit in perpetuating this rhetoric that is tearing our country apart,” Cortez Masto said.
In response, Heck’s campaign said that no one affiliated with the campaign had questioned Cortez Masto’s heritage.
“We have many questions for Ms. Cortez Masto, but none of them relate to her heritage,” said Heck spokesman Brian Baluta in a statement.