Dolores Huerta’s visit to Democrat Rory Reid’s Bonanza Road campaign headquarters on Friday wasn’t all pep talks and fan photos.
The prominent Hispanic activist also laid out some harsh criticism of Republican Brian Sandoval, Reid’s opponent in the race for governor of Nevada.
"Just because somebody has a Latino last name, ok, like Sandoval, ok, that doesn’t mean that person is going to fight for you, so you have got to get that word out to people," said Huerta, a leading activist in the decades since working with Cesar Chavez in organizing the United Farm Workers.
Huerta likened Sandoval’s statements about a controversial immigration law in Arizona as being akin to supporting racism.
Specifically, she referenced a statement Sandoval was alleged to have made this summer in response to a question about whether he would worry for his own family should such a law be enacted in Nevada.
The question came from a television interviewer but the response wasn’t captured on film. Sandoval was reported to have said his children don’t look Hispanic, implying he wouldn’t be worried about the law, which critics say will lead to racial profiling. Sandoval, Nevada’s first Hispanic attorney general, initially denied saying it then said if he had said it he was wrong to do so.
"That is like racism when somebody says something like that," Huerta told the group of about 20 to 30 Reid campaign workers who were in the office. "We need to be proud that have dark skin."
She continued: "We are at a really critical place in our country right now because of the racism. We are going to get people who are going to fight against racism and they are going to fight for us."
Later, during an interview, Huerta reiterated her anti-Sandoval message, saying his candidacy is an example of the Republican Party seeking to attract Hispanic votes while simultaneously trying to undermine what she says are the interests of the Hispanic community.
"They are aware of the strength of the Latino vote, this is why they are fielding candidates like Sandoval. He happens to have a Spanish last name but we know that he doesn’t stand for the Latino people," Huerta said. "The Republican party is getting people of color to run for the Republican party even though these people are totally against the issues that are important to the Latino community."
Sandoval’s campaign, which public polls show enjoys a double-digit percentage point lead over Reid, responded to Huerta’s remarks with a brief statement.
"Brian is proud of his Hispanic heritage," spokeswoman Mary-Sarah Kinner said. "The Hispanic community is an important part of Brian’s campaign because it’s an important part of his life."
The message that Sandoval is anti-Hispanic, despite his heritage, is one the Reid team has emphasized. Although the majority of Hispanic voters tend to vote Democratic and Reid, who speaks Spanish, has sought to cultivate the Hispanic voting bloc, Sandoval’s opportunity to become Nevada’s first Hispanic governor could help him peel away votes from Reid.