Sen. John McCain toured through parts of "Mercado de los Cielos," a former warehouse that now houses dozens of small shops owned mostly by Latinos at Desert Sky Mall in Phoenix, Arizona.
Groups on both sides of the political divide are sparring over Arizona Sen. John McCain's visit to a Phoenix-area Latino-oriented marketplace to announce a Hispanic coalition's support for his 2016 campaign to win a sixth term.
The liberal organization Emily's List trashed McCain for putting on "his Hispanic sombrero to pander to the nearly two million Latinos in his state" when he stopped at the Mercado de los Cielos at Desert Sky Mall. The group also claimed his coalition of Republican Latinos was a “fake.”
"McCain's coalition is no more than the customary politico 'taco stop' where out-of-touch politicians visit Latino businesses for a photo op, say some nice words, eat a taco, and ignore Latino voters until the next re-election cycle,” the group said in a press release.
Sonia Melendez Reyes, Emily's List deputy communications director, said in a written statement to the Arizona Republic, "a Hispanic coalition should have already been established as part of his agenda” if the longtime lawmaker had a genuine interest in Latinos.
McCain's supporters, however, are not taking the battle lying down – saying that Emily's List use of the words, “taco stop,” is offensive and calling on McCain's Democratic challenger, Ann Kirkpatrick, to apologize.
Emily's List has endorsed Kirkpatrick.
"I really do find it offensive as a Latino because it says if you're a prominent Latino in business or in the community or whatever you might do, if you become a Republican or support a Republican, then that's 'fake,'" Jaime Molera, a longtime McCain booster and member of his coalition told the Republic. "And it's a kind of racist, stereotypical comeback."
Molera added: "Don't discount me as being part of a 'taco stop,' because I really find that to be repugnant … Folks always talk about the kind of mudslinging that doesn't belong in politics; well, that was the worst kind."
In response, Melendez Reyes of Emily's List compared McCain to GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, who has become the main target of many Latino's ire since he made comments about immigrants early during the campaign.
“Sen. McCain's political tactics are even more insulting coming from someone whose rhetoric mirrors [GOP presidential frontrunner] Donald Trump and [whose] policies block families from opportunity," she said via email to the Republic. "But I guess it is still more convenient to give in to partisan politics rather than to support opportunities like making college affordable, fixing that Latinas are paid 55 cents for the same work as a white man, and creating a livable wage for all Arizona workers.”
McCain has long been seen as one of the more moderate voices in the Republican party when it comes to immigration reform and has supported a number of plans in the past.
Earlier this year, McCain warned the GOP presidential candidates that if they hope to win the White House they have to support immigration reform.
“The circus currently surrounding the debate over illegal immigration sows division within our country and damages the Republican Party," he said, according to The Hill, adding "if the Republican nominee for president does not support comprehensive immigration reform and border security policy, we have no chance of defeating Hillary Clinton and winning the White House in 2016."