Erika Harold won the Miss America crown in 2003. She entered the pageant to earn scholarship money so that she could attend Harvard Law School. After she earned her law degree at Harvard, Erika joined Sidley Austin in Illinois as a litigator and built an impressive professional resume. Last week, she announced her intentions to challenge Representative Rodney Davis, the current Republican congressman in Illinois' 13th congressional district.
Erika Harold is Black. Erika Harold is also a Republican.
Erika is not a newly minted conservative. She was part of George W. Bush's re-election campaign in 2004 and served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention. Erika has a long history of supporting faith-based initiatives and championed the USO during her year as Miss America. Erika Harold has true Republican bonafides.
However, none of that seems to matter to Jim Allen.
Jim served as the Montgomery County Republican Party chairman in Illinois. He said the following about Erika in an email that has recently become public: "Rodney Davis will win and the love child of the D.N.C. will be back in [Chicago] by May of 2014 working for some law firm that needs to meet their quota for minority hires." He went on to write, "miss queen is being used like a street walker and her pimps are the DEMOCRAT PARTY and RINO REPUBLICANS."
I am certain that Jim's opinions are not representative of all Republicans. In fact, he has been forced to resign from his position with the party. It is not the point of this column to suggest that all Republicans are racists.
Rather, the point of the story is to demonstrate how out of control some of us in politics have gotten. Erika Harold has every right to offer herself for public service. Jim Allen has every right to support the candidate of his choice.
But supporting your candidate does not give you the right to deny the humanity of your opponent.
I am not naïve. I am fully aware that politics can get dirty. It usually does get dirty. Unfortunately, that has become the nature of the business.
However, reducing a clearly accomplished woman, any woman for that matter, to the role of streetwalker for the purposes of getting a political win is unconscionable. The humanity in Jim should have recognized the humanity in Erika and never allowed him to suggest such.
I am glad that Rep. Davis and Reince Priebus moved quickly to force Jim's resignation. It was the right thing to do.
I am sad, though, that we still have to deal with these issues in 2013. I am not at all surprised, because there will be bias and discrimination in society as long as people walk the earth. Still, I am sad.
Karl Douglass, Columbus native and resident, is a frequent commenter on local, state and federal politics. Follow him on Twitter@KarlDouglass or facebook.com/karldouglass.