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GOP candidate fires back at Dem lawmaker over 'racist and sexist' attacks targeting her name

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Rep. Ruben Gallego (Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images)

Republican congressional candidate Tanya Contreras Wheeless fired back at Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) on Wednesday after being accused of using her Hispanic surname to curry favor with voters.

Contreras Wheeless is running for Arizona's redrawn 4th Congressional District.

What did Gallego say?

On Tuesday, in response to controversy involving First Lady Jill Biden, Contreras Wheeless posted on Twitter that she is a "proud, conservative Latina."

Gallego responded to Contreras Wheeless by suggesting that she is only using her Hispanic surname because she is running for political office.

"In the years I have known of you in Arizona it wasn’t until you ran for office that you added Contreras. Glad you are proud Latina now hope it will stay after you lose," Gallego responded. "FYI… google Tanya Wheelers see how often Contreras comes up prior to her running."

The Democratic congressman even used Spanish to claim that Contreras Wheeless becomes a Latina only when it is beneficial for her.

"Tanya is Latina, Cuando le conviene," Gallego said.

Gallego's attacks are particularly confusing because Gallego and Contreras Wheeless are not running for the same congressional district.

How did Contreras Wheeless respond?

She released a statement through her campaign on Wednesday condemning Gallego for "sexist and racist" claims.

"Ruben Gallego's claim that I am not sufficiently Latina because I don't always use my fill name is disappointing, but not surprising," Contreras Wheeless said.

"Many women change their last name when they get married, but that doesn't change who they are or where they came from," she continued. "Attacking me for using my married name is sexist and racist. These gross attacks have sadly become too frequent in our political discourse."

Contreras Wheeless added that Gallego's "smear" was meant to ruin her day — but "mission failed."

"I am proud of my heritage and who I am — today and every day. I will use my name when and how I want," she declared. "I am proud to be part Mexican, party Canadian and 100% America, and I'll never stop fighting for the American dream."

According to her campaign website, Contreras Wheeless is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants.

She is running against a handful of other Republican candidates in the Arizona primary election on Aug. 2.

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