State Sen. Kim Hendren of Gravette said he regretted referring to Schumer's religion when he criticized the senator during a recent appearance before a Republican group. The "that Jew" comment was reported by a conservative blogger.
"I ought not to have referred to it at all," Hendren said. "When I referred to him as Jewish, it wasn't because I don't like Jewish people."
Hendren, who is the only announced candidate challenging Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln, made the remarks before the Pulaski County Republican Committee last week. Jason Tolbert, a conservative blogger, quoted Hendren Thursday admitting that he referred to Schumer as "that Jew."
Hendren told the AP that he didn't remember if he referred to Schumer as "that Jew" but said he did refer to that fact that Schumer is Jewish. Hendren said he made the reference as he talked about comments the senior New York senator made criticizing some elements of the Republican Party.
"I shouldn't have gotten into this Jewish business because it distracts from the issue," Hendren said.
Officials with Schumer's office declined to immediately comment on Hendren's remarks.
Hendren, who once ran for governor as a Democrat against Bill Clinton in 1982, announced last month that he was running against Lincoln. Hendren, 71, is also the minority leader in the state Senate.
Lincoln is seeking a third term in the Senate and has been viewed as vulnerable by state Republican in the 2010 election. In a statement, Lincoln's campaign manager Steve Patterson said the race shouldn't be about "offensive comments from the candidates."
"Sadly, these remarks speak for themselves," Patterson said.
Several Republicans have said they're also considering a run against Lincoln, including state Sen. Gilbert Baker of Conway and former interim U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin.
Hendren likely faces a battle within the state's GOP ranks over his candidacy outside of his remarks about Schumer. Known for his folksy approach at the state Capitol, Hendren regularly railed against federal spending throughout this year's legislative session. However, he voted in February to support raising the state's tobacco taxes and last year backed an increase in the severance tax on natural gas.