SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — An Illinois Republican official resigned from his leadership post Thursday amid outrage over an email in which he berated a biracial former Miss America as a “street walker” who could fill a law firm’s “minority quota” if she loses her bid for Congress.
The controversy, involving a county GOP leader in central Illinois who campaigned for U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, created a new rift for Republicans already struggling to expand and attract women and minority voters.
Davis demanded the resignation of the county official, Jim Allen, after learning of what he called a “wrong, appalling and incredibly demeaning” email targeting Erika Harold, Davis’ opponent in the March 2014 Republican primary.
Sent to Republican blogger Doug Ibendahl, the email referred to Harold as a “street walker” and “love child” of Democrats and suggested the Harvard graduate could fill a “minority quota” at a law firm should she lose the race.
Ibendahl, also a former party official, posted the email Wednesday on his website.
“I hope some of these bullies learn a lesson from this,” he told the Associated Press on Thursday. “Our party has a huge branding problem nationwide, especially in Illinois. This guy’s attitude sets us back. It’s confirmation as to why women and minorities don’t take the Republican party seriously.”
Allen apologized for his message in a brief statement to the (Champaign, Ill.) News-Gazette and resigned from his post Thursday afternoon.
Harold released a statement, saying Allen’s comments have “no place within public discourse.”
Champaign County GOP Chairman Habeeb Habeeb —who is staying impartial in the 13th District GOP primary — was so offended by the comments he left a message for Harold and personally apologized to her father.
“I don’t see that kind of vitriol in everyday Republican circles,” Habeeb said. “The party has changed and these things just set us backward.”
The incident highlights the rocky path the national party has forged in recent months, with comments such as Allen’s derailing efforts by the GOP to become more of a “big tent” organization.