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Others in party decry email sent to news site calling candidate 'love child of DNC'

A Republican Party official from a rural county in the 13th Congressional District apologized Wednesday for racist remarks he wrote about GOP congressional candidate Erika Harold of Urbana.

"The words in the commentary I wrote were completely wrong," said Jim Allen, the Republican Party chairman in Montgomery County. "I apologize to Erika Harold, her staff and her supporters."

With that, Allen hung up.

Until Wednesday, he had been listed as a member of "Team 2014" on U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis' campaign website, but his name was removed sometime during the day.

Davis is the first-term Republican congressman from Taylorville in the district that runs from Champaign-Urbana on the northeast to the Illinois suburbs of St. Louis on the southwest. He was named the party's congressional nominee last year after U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, withdrew from the race. Party chairmen, including Allen, chose Davis over a number of other applicants, including Harold.

In an email that Allen sent late Tuesday night to Doug Ibendahl, editor of the Republican News Watch website, he wrote that Davis would win the primary election next March and called Harold "the love child of the D.N.C." (Democratic National Committee).

He predicted that after the primary she would return to Chicago, "working for some law firm that needs to meet their quota for minority hires."

Harold, who lives in Urbana and works at the Meyer Capel law firm in Champaign, is biracial. Her mother is African-American, and her father is white.

The email rant, which was in response to a complimentary story Ibendahl wrote on his website, continued:

"The truth is Nancy Pelosi and the DEMOCRAT party want this seat. So they called RINO Timmy Johnson to be their pack mule and get little queen to run.

"Ann Callis gets a free ride through a primary and Rodney Davis has a battle." [sic]

Callis, a former Madison County judge, is seeking the Democratic nomination in the highly competitive district.

In another section of his email, Allen wrote of Harold, who was a Miss America in 2003 and campaigned on a platform opposed to bullying and in support of sexual abstinence, "The little queen touts her abstinence, and she won the crown because she got bullied in school,,,boohoo..kids are cruel, life sucks and you move on.

"Now, miss queen is being used like a street walker and her pimps are the DEMOCRAT PARTY and RINO REPUBLICANSThese pimps want something they can't get,,, the seat held by a conservative REPUBLICAN Rodney Davis and Nancy Pelosi can't stand it." [sic]

Harold issued a statement late Wednesday night: "The views expressed within Chairman Allen’s email have no place within public discourse. These comments, however, only strengthen my resolve to run a positive campaign and reject personal attacks." 

Last month, Allen told State Journal-Register political columnist Bernard Schoenburg that he supported Davis and that he hoped the 33-year-old Harold would run for another office.

"Why start a war when there's really no war necessary?" Allen said.

Both a spokesman for Davis and the chairman of the Champaign County Republican Party quickly denounced Allen's remarks.

"Mr. Allen's comments are misguided and wrong and certainly do not reflect the views of Congressman Davis or his campaign. Our hope is that supporters for all of the candidates conduct themselves in a positive manner and focus on the issues facing our country as the campaign moves forward," said Andrew Flach, a spokesman for the Republican congressman.

Habeeb Habeeb, the Lebanese-born chairman of the Champaign County Republican Party, also criticized the comments.

"If he did say it, I am shocked, I'm horrified," said Habeeb. "I can't even give you words that are printable to describe my reaction to it. This does not represent any of my feelings or any of the people that I know or the Republican Party that I know."

Habeeb said that "both Rodney and Erika are good people, and we have a primary, and let the primary happen, and let us be honorable human beings without saying these kinds of things. We don't even call our enemies that. There is no reason for him to have said that. I denounce it in the strongest terms."

Ibendahl said he had never met Allen.

"When I first saw the email, it didn't even occur to me that a party official could be so stupid. I'm on record, promising that I will publicly call out people who will do this garbage," said Ibendahl, who was an attorney for the Illinois Republican Party in the 1990s. "So he sends that to the editor of a news site? Of course I'm going to publish it."

Ibendahl called Allen's remarks "part of bully culture.

"Most Republicans are good people, but we've got some bullies out there. It's not right.

"How many good people have we seen just crucified? Erika Harold, I don't think this is her first rodeo. Miss America, I'm guessing, is not the lovey-dovey, all-clean pageant that we might imagine. I imagine it's pretty cutthroat, actually."

Ibendahl admitted that he favors Harold over Davis in the 13th Congressional District race.

"I have never met Erika Harold. I've never even talked to her on the phone," he said. "I think she's the real deal."

He called Davis "a nice guy, I guess. But most snake oil salesmen are. I wasn't a fan when he was executive director (of the Illinois Republican Party) under Pat Brady. I think he's a hack. Putting all that aside, I don't think he's a very good candidate. I don't think he deserves it."

Columnist

Tom Kacich is a columnist and the author of Tom's Mailbag at The News-Gazette. His column appears Sundays. His email is tkacich@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@tkacich).