(Adds comment from Obama campaign, paragraphs 8-9)
ELKO, Nevada, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton called on her chief rival Barack Obama on Friday to denounce ads being run on Spanish-language radio that accuse Clinton of not respecting Hispanic people.
“They’re shameless and offensive,” Clinton said of the ads after a rally in the Nevada mining town of Elko, a day ahead of caucuses that are next in the state-by-state process to choose presidential nominees.
The ad backs Illinois Sen. Obama and says that “Hillary Clinton does not have respect for our people,” referring to a lawsuit aimed at stopping voting taking place at Las Vegas casinos on Saturday.
Casinos workers, who are largely represented by a union that endorsed Obama, will be able to vote at their workplaces after a judge rejected the lawsuit, a result that Clinton’s campaign called disappointing.
Hispanic voters are a key demographic in Nevada, and many work in Las Vegas’s plethora of casinos, hotels and restaurants.
Clinton won the New Hampshire primary this month after losing to Obama in Iowa, setting up a close race for the Democratic nomination to run in the Nov. 4 election.
Rival Democratic candidate John Edwards backed Clinton over the ads, which were run by a group supporting Obama, and said Obama should call for them to be stopped. “This is exactly the kind of divisive politics that should not be taking place in the Democratic Party, and I denounce it,” he said.
Obama’s campaign said it discouraged supporters from running independent advertising campaigns. “Senator Obama believes, and has said clearly, that campaigns should fund themselves and discourages supporters from spending outside the campaign,” said Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
“As for the Clinton campaign’s comment, coming from a campaign that is repeatedly launching absolutely false attacks against Senator Obama, it takes some chutzpah,” said Psaki.
New York Sen. Clinton also cited anecdotal evidence that citizens were being pressed not to go to the caucus sites if they did not support the candidates their unions had endorsed.
"I'm publicly calling on my opponents as well as any unions that support them or me to issue a statement today that makes it abundantly clear that everyone in Nevada is urged and encouraged to caucus," Clinton told reporters. (Additional reporting by Kevin Drawbaugh in Washington, editing by Stuart Grudgings) (To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at blogs.reuters.com/trail08/)