Sandoval: “My Children Don’t Look Hispanic”

Republican Brian Sandoval, who’s trying to become Nevada’s first Hispanic governor, is under fire for saying that his “children don’t look Hispanic,” suggesting that they wouldn’t be subject to racial profiling by law enforcement officials.

Sandoval, a former US district judge, made the remarks during an interview with Univision when asked how he’d feel if his children were stopped in the street and asked for their immigration papers. An adamant supporter of Arizona’s harsh immigration law, Sandoval first tried to deny that he had made the comments, which weren’t aired by the television station. “I’ve never heard that quote before and I’ve never described my children as looking Hispanic or not Hispanic,” Sandoval told a local news anchor. But as the accusations continued to fly, Sandoval hurriedly tried to backpedal. “If I did say those words, it was wrong and I sincerely regret it. I am proud of my heritage,” he said in a statement.

A reporter for the Las Vegas Sun confirmed on Thursday that Sandoval had made the comments on videotape. His Democratic opponent Rory Reid has swiftly pounced on the remarks and Sandoval’s attempt to deny them. In a press release on Thursday, Reid slammed Sandoval for making “yet another untruthful statement,” accusing him of flip-flopping on whether Nevada should issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.

The controversy shows some of the cracks in the Republican Party’s strategy of pushing right-wing, anti-amnesty Hispanic candidates in major 2010 races. Sandoval seemed to be making some inroads with Hispanic voters on the campaign trail, despite his inability to speak Spanish and hardline views on views on immigration. “Hispanic voters just assume he’s lying to get elected,” one Democratic consultant told Slate. But Sandoval’s recent gaffe could leave voters wondering whether he’s simply trying to have it both ways.