BERLIN — A leading candidate to be mayor of Cologne was stabbed and seriously wounded Saturday by a man who claimed anti-foreigner motives, an attack that Germany’s interior minister said underlined growing concerns over hatred and violence in the refugee crisis.

Henriette Reker was stabbed in the neck at a campaign stand set up by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats at a market. Her condition was stable, police chief Wolfgang Albers said.

Reker is an independent candidate in Sunday’s election for the new mayor of Germany’s fourth-biggest city, but is backed by Merkel’s conservatives and two other parties. The 58-year-old currently heads Cologne’s social affairs and integration department, and is responsible for refugee housing.

Another woman was seriously wounded and three people had minor injuries from the attack, senior police investigator Norbert Wagner said.

The suspected assailant, a 44-year-old German national and Cologne resident who said he had been unemployed for several years, told officials that he targeted Reker and that “he wanted to and did commit this act because of anti-foreigner motives,” Wagner said.

Prosecutor Ulf Willuhn said officials will now investigate whether that was in fact the man’s primary motive or whether his health played a role. They plan to carry out a psychiatric examination.

Asked whether the suspect had specifically mentioned Reker’s or Merkel’s policies on refugees, Wagner said: “No. He made general statements in that direction – he didn’t mention Ms. Merkel at all.”

City officials said Sunday’s election would go ahead as planned.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere described the stabbing as “an attack on our democracy” and said he had long been “concerned by the hate-filled language and violent actions that accompany the refugee debate in Germany.”

“This cowardly attack in Cologne is further evidence of the increasing radicalization of the refugee debate,” he said in a statement.