WASHINGTON — The Republican nominee for Senate in Maryland distanced herself Monday from controversial statements Donald Trump has made about a federal judge of Mexican descent.
Trump, the party's presumptive presidential nominee, said last week that U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel should have recused himself from a case filed against Trump by former students of Trump University.
Trump said Curiel couldn't be impartial because the judge's parents were born in Mexico. The statement drew fast criticism from several Republican leaders.
"Mr. Trump's statement with regard to Judge Curiel is insulting to all Americans," said Del. Kathy Szeliga, who is running for Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski's seat. "My own daughter-in-law is of Mexican descent. To say that anyone's ethnic background should disqualify them from public service of any kind -- particularly a judge who has sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States -- is, by definition, a racist statement."
Szeliga -- who already faces an uphill fight in heavily Democratic Maryland -- and other down-ballot Republican candidates across the country are looking for ways to navigate controversial statements frequently made by their party's standard bearer.
Szeliga has said she will support whoever is the Republican nominee.
Szeliga's Democratic opponent, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, has frequently sought to tie Szeliga to Trump.
Maryland Democrats said Szelige's move was hypocritical.
"Delegate Szeliga is doing what voters hate most about politics -- trying to play all sides while pretending otherwise," the state party's executive director, Chuck Conner, said in a statement. "If she truly opposes his hateful rhetoric and dangerous policies, she would oppose his candidacy."