WASHINGTON – In a variation on an old theme, a Hispanic supporter of Howard Dean called a Latina Republican Senate candidate a "house Mexican" who is not being true to her race.
Steven Ybarra, a Democratic National Committee (search) official and regional coordinator of Latinos for Dean (search), called Rosario Marin (search), the former U.S. treasurer under President Bush who is now seeking the GOP nomination to compete against California Sen. Barbara Boxer, a "house Mexican for the Republicans." The attack was sent out in a mass e-mail to political activists, community leaders and a number of journalists this week.
"During all the attacks on our people, regardless of which side of the border the Republicans focus on, she has remained officially silent," Ybarra wrote.
Ybarra was using a variation on a derogatory slave term used to denigrate blacks perceived to be following a white agenda. Historically, slaves who labored in the house rather than in the fields were said to have received better treatment and to have been more loyal to the slave owner.
Marin, a former mayor of Huntington Park, Calif., and aide to former Gov. Pete Wilson, responded to the attack by accusing Ybarra of having his own bias.
"Apparently, according to Mr. Ybarra and many of his fellow Democrats, if you are not a liberal Democrat, then you shouldn't be considered a legitimate minority. It doesn't matter that I'm an immigrant, the daughter of a janitor and a seamstress, or that I had to teach myself English because my first language was Spanish," she said in a statement.
Marin, who has depicted her campaign as a historic opportunity for the California GOP to expand its base, also called on state Democratic leaders to "condemn Mr. Ybarra's hateful and bigoted remark."
Marin is not the first Bush official to have been castigated for being a minority Republican. In October 2002, Harry Belafonte (search), the calypso singer and dancer, accused Secretary of State Colin Powell of being a "house slave" for toeing the party line of an administration Belafonte opposed.
"There's an old saying in the days of slavery. There are those slaves on the plantation and there were those slaves who lived in the big house. You got the privilege of living in the house to serve the master. Colin Powell was permitted to come into the house of the master," Belafonte said on a San Diego radio talk show.
Belafonte also accused National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice (search) of ignoring the concerns of black people.
In a statement to Los Angeles' Univision, Ybarra said that Marin should be "proud of being called a house Mexican" in the same way as he is "proud to be the house Mexican for the Democratic Party."
He added that his remarks were not meant to make reference to African-American slaves, but to suggest that Marin is a Hispanic "owned and operated" by a company or group.
Latino political scholar Fernando Guerra said whatever the intent, the outcome is malicious.
"She is a symbol of what Latinos can do. He is not, and for him to degrade that, it hits many of us, including a liberal Democrat like myself, into thinking, 'Hey, I am going to, in a sense, react and even begin to be supportive of her because of these statements,'" Guerra said.
On Friday, 25 Republican Latino leaders threw their support behind Marin. But Ybarra told Fox News that he has no regrets about his remarks.
"As far as I am concerned, she is a third level bureaucrat who was given a job by Bush so she could say that he had Mexicans working for him, and she's running for Senate so Bush can target Latino voters," he said.
"This man has absolutely no regard for a person who has worked all her life, who has gone from nothing, from very very humble beginnings to the person that's signed all of the currency of the United States," Marin responded, adding that she is mostly shocked that California's Democratic leaders have so far been silent about Ybarra's remarks.
She also said that she is proud -- of being associated with Powell and Rice.
"I'm also in good company with Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice who have been slandered in recent years simply because they are Republicans. I'm proud to be a Republican and honored to have been appointed U.S. Treasurer by President Bush," she said.
Fox News' Jon Brady contributed to this report.