Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Oklahoma GOP elects critic of Islam

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OKLAHOMA CITY — A former state representa­tive with a reputation for anti-Islamic rhetoric has been elected as chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party.

Former state Rep. John Bennett won a first-ballot victory at the party convention Saturday at the Oklahoma City Convention Center, vice chairman Shane Jemison said Sunday.

Also seeking election to the chair were Rogers County party activist Christine Leevirapha­n, former state Rep. Charles Ortega of Altus, and Jenni White, a former teacher who was an outspoken critic of the Common Core curriculum for public schools.

Jemison was reelected Saturday to a new term as the state party’s vice chairman.

Bennett is a Marine Corps veteran of three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanista­n who served eight years in the Oklahoma House. He succeeds David McLain, who chose not to seek a second term.

In 2013, he helped form the unofficial House counterter­rorism caucus, citing concerns about a Muslim attempt to replace the U.S. Constituti­on with Islamic law. He also referred to Islam as a “cancer in our nation that needs to be cut out” and faced criticism for Facebook posts targeting Muslims and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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