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Democrats defend Hoosier judge after Trump’s remarks about Mexican heritage, call for Republicans to follow suit

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Hoosier Democrats came out in support of a judge with Hoosier roots who’s come under attack from presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

The judge, Gonzalo Curiel, is overseeing a lawsuit against “Trump University.” Curiel has come under fire from Trump, who raised concerns about possible bias from the judge because of his Mexican heritage. Curiel was born in East Chicago, Ind., but his parents are from Mexico.

Trump, who has made comments critical of Mexicans and touted his plan to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, said Curiel is upset with Trump’s policies toward Mexico and shouldn't oversee the Trump University case.

Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody lashed out against Trump’s comments Monday morning, but he also criticized Indiana Republicans for failing to come to Curiel’s defense. While Trump has received some criticism from Republicans nationally, Zody said the Indiana contingent has remained quiet.

“We’re here to publicly call out the Indiana Republican Party and its candidates and elected officials for turning a blind eye and not sticking to the morals we know as Hoosiers,” Zody said. “We’re asking Republicans to put politics aside and join us in an effort to protect the well-being of Indiana and everyone who calls themselves a Hoosier by condemning these remarks against a Hoosier.”

Zody called Trump’s campaign “divisive and toxic.”

Former State Representative John Aguilera also discussed Trump’s calling.

“We’re here to talk about something personal for us as Hoosiers,” Aguilera said. “Case details aside, Trump used ‘Mexican’ as a derogatory term to describe Judge Curiel.”

Aguilera said Curiel is a longtime Hoosier who was born and raised in East Chicago. He pointed out that the judge attended Indiana University in Bloomington. Even after moving to California, Curiel has maintained his Hoosier ties, Aguilera said.

“With this kind of background, you can’t be any more of a Hoosier than that,” Aguilera told reporters Monday.

Aguilera said he had a personal interaction with Trump in the early 1990s when he was part of a minority investment group for a proposed casino in the Gary area. He and others were asked to drum up support for the proposal, which they did.

According to Aguilera, the Trump investment group didn’t come through on its promises to the investment group and they weren’t able to participate. They filed a lawsuit and settled the case out of court.

“Mr. Trump, you have again crossed the line. Gonzalo is a Hoosier, and we must work together to defend one of our own,” Aguilera said.

Zody called for Hoosier Republicans, naming Gov. Mike Pence and Rep. Todd Young and others, to condemn Trump’s remarks.

“Hoosier Republicans should be held accountable for their blind support of their presumptive nominee,” Zody. “We’re not really talking about politics. We’re talking about the Golden Rule and how we treat one another.”

“The silence is deafening, and it should be a wakeup call for Hoosiers,” Zody said. “We’re hearing nothing from our Hoosier elected officials.”