Larry Hogan, left (Photo by The Daily Times) and Anthony Brown (Photo by Andre Chung for The Washington Post)

Maryland’s two leading gubernatorial candidates sparred Tuesday over a decade-old veto of a bill that sought to extend in-state college tuition rates to undocumented immigrants.

During an appearance before a Hispanic business conference, Democratic nominee Anthony G. Brown attacked his Republican opponent, Larry Hogan, for a move made in 2003 by the state’s last Republican governor, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Hogan, who spoke to the same group later in the day, said that Brown again was attempting to divert attention from more pressing campaign issues, such as jobs and taxes.

Hogan served as appointments secretary under Ehrlich, who vetoed a version of Maryland’s so-called “Dream Act” in 2003. A similar bill was approved by the legislature in 2011, signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and upheld by voters in a referendum.

“I supported the Dream Act, not just when it passed three or four years ago,” Brown, the state’s lieutenant governor, told the Maryland Hispanic Business Conference in Bethesda. “I supported the Dream Act when Governor Ehrlich vetoed the Dream Act, and someone you’ll hear from this afternoon named Larry Hogan was part of that leadership team that vetoed the Dream Act.”

As appointments secretary, Hogan was responsible for steering thousands of people into state jobs. He did not have a direct role in setting education policy. But Brown, who in 2003 was a delegate representing Prince George’s County, said in an interview that Hogan was part of Ehrlich’s leadership team, and “no governor makes a decision in isolation.”

In an interview, Hogan called Brown’s attack part of a pattern from an “increasingly desperate” candidate who thought he would face a “coronation,” rather than a competitive election, in heavily Democratic Maryland.

In a Facebook posting after the Dream Act passed in 2011, Change Maryland, a group Hogan led at the time, praised opponents of the measure who gathered signatures to force a public vote on what Hogan’s group called a “nightmare act.”

But Hogan has stated repeatedly that he has no intention of trying to roll back the Dream Act, which enables undocumented students to pay in-state tuition if they graduate from Maryland high schools and meet other criteria.

“We’re not going to keep responding to this nonsense,” Hogan said.

In recent weeks, Brown has aggressively sought to draw contrasts with Hogan, an Anne Arundel County businessman. On Tuesday, that effort also included the release of a new television ad in which Brown touts his support of significantly expanding pre-kindergarten programs in the state. Viewers, meanwhile, are told that Hogan, who has questioned the cost of Brown’s expansion plan, “would take our kids backwards.”

Brown touched on the same theme during his remarks at the business conference Tuesday morning, saying: “You know how many Latino students are in need of pre-K.”

The lieutenant governor also touted O’Malley’s efforts to award more contracts to minority-owned businesses, saying that awards to Hispanic businesses have increased by 191 percent over the last seven years.

In his remarks, Hogan said he would focus on cutting taxes, creating jobs and improving economic conditions for struggling families. “I strongly believe that Hispanic businesses need new leadership in Annapolis,” he said.