SACRAMENTO — Republican candidate for governor Tim Donnelly on Tuesday brushed off concerns that his 2006 speech comparing illegal immigration to war would hurt his chances of winning over Latino voters.
"I have more support from Latinos than most Republicans in this state," said Donnelly, a state assemblyman from San Bernardino County, who spoke to reporters in the Capitol. “I have it because I’ve been outspoken on issues that affect them more than anyone else.”
He said his campaign platform is focused on increasing economic opportunity in California.
Donnelly defended the speech, a recording of which was obtained by The Times, in which he urged an audience of about 200 people at a rally to join him in patrolling the Mexican border with the Minutemen.
“We are on the brink of a battle,” he said in the address, delivered in Temecula, “unlike the likes of which this nation has seen since 1861,” when the Civil War began.
That was not an incitement to violence, Donnelly told The Times on Monday. On Tuesday, he said: “I am not backing away from the fact that we are in a war. I don’t know what you call it when drug cartels are operating in all of our national forests, growing marijuana."
In the Temecula speech, Donnelly referred to illegal immigration as an insurgency. On Tuesday, he said illegal immigrants involved in crime “represent an insurgency that threatens the lives of every Californian who encounters it.”
He said California was different in 2006 and “everyone who has ever run for office started somewhere. I started at the border. I was a Minuteman. “
Donnelly’s 2006 speech drew condemnation Tuesday from at least one member of his party, state Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres).
“The statements made by Assemblyman Donnelly are purely divisive and wrong. They have no place in any discussion regarding our immigrant population,” Cannella said in a statement.
“I call upon Assemblyman Donnelly to renounce his statements,” Cannella said, “and recognize that many of the immigrants living in California are valuable members of our communities.”
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