Illinois GOP official steps down after likening ex-Miss America to a 'street walker'

From staff and wire reportsJune 20, 2013 

An Illinois Republican county chairman resigned Thursday in the wake of likening former Miss America Erika Harold, who's challenging a sitting GOP congressman in next year's primary election, to a "street walker" whose "pimps" were Democrats and moderate Republicans.

Jim Allen, of Farmersville, the chairman of the Montgomery County GOP, sent the resignation letter to new Illinois Republican Chairman Jack Dorgan, who called Allen's remarks "offensive and inappropriate."

Allen, who supports Republican U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, made his remarks in an email to a supporter of Harold's. She is the 2003 Miss America from Urbana and a former Chicago attorney who plans to run against Davis.

Davis called on Allen to step down from his party position earlier Thursday after learning of the email.

Also on Thursday, state Rep. Mike Bost, a Murphysboro Republican, said he's considering running for Congress against U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville.

Allen wrote an email suggesting Erika Harold could fill a "minority quota" if she lost the Republican primary against Davis. Harold, a biracial Harvard law school graduate who was crowned Miss America in 2003, launched her bid this month.

During a conference call Thursday morning, Davis said Allen should step down from the county post. Allen's name had already been removed from a list of Davis supporters on a campaign website.

"(The) comments were wrong, appalling and incredibly demeaning," Davis said.

Later Thursday, Allen stepped down from his position with the party.

Allen's email to lawyer and Republican blogger Doug Ibendahl referred to Harold as a "street walker" and "love child" of Democrats. Ibendah posted the email Wednesday on his website.

Allen issued a statement to the Champaign News-Gazette, apologizing for the message.

Harold also put out a statement, saying Allen's comments have "no place within public discourse."

"These comments, however, only strengthen my resolve to run a positive campaign and reject personal attacks," she said.

When she announced her bid earlier this month, Harold said she believes she can help expand the party's voting base and reach people who don't traditionally vote Republican.

The dustup is the latest round in a bitter bout among Republicans over the future of their party and comes as some call for more diversity within the GOP.

"We do need to welcome folks from all walks of life, regardless of where they come from what they look like and what their policy preference is," said Davis, a first-term congressman from Taylorville.

Davis said he and Allen have not yet spoken.

So far, the only announced Democratic candidate for the congressional seat is Ann Callis, a former chief judge in Madison County.


Bost, who gained national attention with a paper-tossing rant on the floor of the House, said Thursday he's considering a run for Congress against Enyart.

"I'm weighing that option. We're looking at it," Bost said. "I haven't made a decision yet."

Bost said he hopes to make a decision sometime next month. He said there are "some issues still pending out there" on the state level, which he'll continue working on.

"I am talking with people. A lot of it is with my family," he said. "It's a lot of prayer and a lot of family discussion."

Bost, a former Marine and a business owner, has served in the legislature since 1995.

Last year, Bost made national news with his rant on the House floor over pension reform. He tossed a stack of papers into the air while complaining about the power of House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat. One YouTube video of the tirade has been viewed almost 400,000 times.

Enyart, a Democrat, was elected last year to represent Illinois' 12th District in Congress. He is an attorney and former head of the Illinois Army National Guard.

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