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Giuliani says Democrats stoke ethnic rift

California Republican Party gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman (L) appears at a campaign event with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on October 10, 2010 in Van Nuys, California . Giuliani is in California to campaign for Whitman.
California Republican Party gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman (L) appears at a campaign event with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on October 10, 2010 in Van Nuys, California . Giuliani is in California to campaign for Whitman.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

WESTMINSTER — Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on Monday said a Latina congresswoman's remarks about Vietnamese and Republicans trying to unseat her reflect Democrats' push to pit people against each other and a mindset of "ethnic warfare."

Giuliani made the comments at a press conference in the country's largest Vietnamese immigrant community while campaigning for Republican Van Tran, who is running against Democratic incumbent Loretta Sanchez for California's 47th Congressional District.

"It is pretty clear that they were an attempt to make this race into some kind of an ethnic conflict, a class conflict, which is really what the Democrats are trying to do, this whole class warfare, ethnic warfare," Giuliani told reporters in a mall in the heart of Orange County's Little Saigon against a backdrop of fruit and flower shops and a kiosk selling golden Buddhas.

Giuliani made the stop in Southern California to endorse Tran, who is the first serious challenger Sanchez has faced since she was elected 14 years ago, and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina.

The race for Orange County's only Congressional seat held by a Democrat has grown heated in recent weeks since Sanchez said in a Spanish-language interview on Univision that "the Vietnamese and Republicans" were trying "to take this seat from us... and give it to this Van Tran who is very anti-immigrant and very anti-Hispanic" — words she later conceded were poorly chosen.

Tran, a state Assemblyman who has helped groom Vietnamese-Americans for local elected offices, has called the comments a "racial rampage" and said he is not only campaigning among Vietnamese residents. About 15 percent of the district is Asian.

In response to Giuliani's remarks, Caroline Hogan, a spokeswoman for Sanchez's campaign, said the congresswoman's "strong record of community development, opportunity and empowerment for the families in her district speaks for itself."

Sanchez has said her race with Tran looks close. While nearly two-thirds of residents are Hispanic and 47 percent of voters are Democrat, Latinos have a lower turnout rate than Vietnamese-Americans and Democrats will likely be hurt this year by the anti-incumbent sentiment sweeping a nation wracked by the recession.

Tran said Giuliani's visit highlights the importance of his race, which seeks to recapture for Republicans a seat once held by conservative Congressman Bob Dornan, known as "B-1 Bob" for his support of military programs.

It comes a day after Giuliani, who lost the GOP presidential primary two years ago, campaigned for California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, who is locked in a tight race with California Attorney General Jerry Brown.

On Monday, Giuliani told reporters in Westminster that he was backing Fiorina and Tran to put a stop to what he called the government's move toward "European social democracy" and uncertain tax policies that hurt investment.

"They've taken over banks, they've taken over financial institutions, they've taken over health care, they want to take over energy, they basically want to create a very large gigantic government that is going to sit like a weight on our economy," he said in a community formed by refugees fleeing communist Vietnam in the 1970s, some who are still wary of government.

Despite political upheaval over the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, the program has been far less expensive than its original $700 billion price tag. As of Sept. 30, the government has spent $388 billion, of which $204 billion has been repaid.

Sanchez, who has won support from many Vietnamese-Americans for standing up to Vietnam over its human rights record, opposed the bailout on Wall Street, Hogan said.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.