WASHINGTON (WNEW) — Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is being accused of “Hispandering” to immigrant voters as part of his efforts to gather support for a potential 2016 presidential run.

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Izzy Santa criticized the Maryland Democrat for what she says are shallow attempts to embrace the Hispanic community, BuzzFeed reports. Santa says that O’Malley’s embrace of immigrants – or “new Americans,” as he calls them – is nothing more than “divisive racial politics.”

“What Martin O’Malley won’t say is that under his leadership 39,000 Hispanics have entered poverty and more Hispanics are earning less due to the 78 new taxes he has imposed on Maryland’s economy,” Santa said in a statement to BuzzFeed.

Santa continued: “Winning elections is based on substance and so far Martin O’Malley is relying on Hispandering to win. Talking about immigration and hoping no one pays attention to his failed economic record will not overcompensate for his dismissal of the Hispanic community and attempts to play divisive racial politics.”

O’Malley’s record on immigration rights includes his support of the DREAM Act in 2011 – which extended in-state college tuition rates to undocumented immigrants. In addition he has passed allowed the issuing of driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants who pay their taxes, and his recent statement to the Department of Homeland Security that he would not be compliant with a federal program targeting undocumented immigrants for deportation.

The Democratic National Committee Director of Hispanic Media, Pili Tobar, fired back at the Republican spokeswoman, saying their GOP counterpart’s comments were both “offensive” and “silly.”

“The RNC can’t call for a substantive dialogue, then eight words later coin a silly and offensive phrase that demeans issues important to Latinos,” Tobar said in a statement to BuzzFeed. “Democrats have a strong record of continuing to fight for the Latino community — whether it’s Governor O’Malley overseeing the lowest Hispanic unemployment rate in the nation or passing a Maryland DREAM Act or President Obama and Democrats in Congress leading the charge for comprehensive immigration reform.”

Tobar continued: “Meanwhile, Republicans continue to block bipartisan immigration reform and measures to keep families together, while they reject commonsense legislation that benefits Hispanic families like raising the minimum wage, expanding access to health care and ensuring equal pay for equal work. With the GOP’s repeated head fakes to Latinos, while obstructing progress on substantive issues, it’s clear only one party has an agenda at odds with Latinos: the GOP.”

The term “Hispander” gained popularity in 2012 after conservative radio host Rush Limabugh used the term to describe Hispanic immigrants voting for President Barack Obama over Mitt Romney.

O’Malley visited Iowa over the weekend, the first state to have a presidential caucus, sparking debate
about his 2016 presidential aspirations.

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