Tar­rant Repub­li­cans vote for Mus­lim vice chair, re­ject big­otry

Star-Telegram (Sunday) - - Local & Texas - BY BUD KENNEDY [email protected]­gram.com

The Tar­rant County Repub­li­can Party rid­ded it­self of an old de­mon last week, and gained hope for fu­ture vic­to­ries.

Once a rec­og­nized party leader and elected state party of­fi­cial, Keller Repub­li­can Sara Legvold was left sit­ting alone in the narthex of a Rich­land Hills church Thurs­day night, wear­ing a niqab and mock­ing Mus­lim women as party precinct chairs in­side de­fied re­li­gious big­otry and voted to keep Vice Chair Shahid Shafi of South­lake.

It was Legvold who pushed Shafi’s lo­cal ap­point­ment into the na­tional head­lines in the first place. Her Aug. 19 Face­book post called for Repub­li­cans to re­ject Shafi as a “prac­tic­ing, mosque-at­tend­ing Mus­lim” and also to do away with the idea of a di­verse “big tent” Repub­li­can Party, out­rag­ing elected of­fi­cials from Austin to Wash­ing­ton.

On Fri­day, with na­tional cam­eras watch­ing to see whether Repub­li­cans in Texas’ largest re­li­ably red county would pun­ish Shafi for his re­li­gion, Legvold chose to show up cov­ered headto-toe in a black gar­ment, scarf and veil sim­i­lar to a burqa, leav-

ing only her eyes and glasses vis­i­ble.

Re­porters were con­fused. But lo­cal Repub­li­cans knew right away.

“That’s just Sara,” one said, turn­ing his back.

For years, the party has said “that’s just Sara” as she called Mus­lims “ver­min,” railed against im­mi­grants and party of­fi­cials on her Face­book page “Pro­tect Texas” and praised apartheid in South Africa.

Fi­nally, the party re­jected her years of for­eigner­bash­ing and ji­had con­spir­acy the­o­ries, also pro­moted by author and speaker Dor­rie O’Brien, still a cur­rent elected party precinct chair in the Tar­rant County por­tion of Grand Prairie.

On Aug. 19, Legvold posted a Face­book warn- ing against Shafi’s ap­point­ment and an “in­fil­tra­tion” of Tar­rant County: “It is past time we took our Party back with no apolo­gies to any­one be­fore any more dam­age is done.”

She signed the post, “Trump Cam­paign Chair.”

(Ac­cord­ing to a Jan. 21, 2016 email from Pres­i­dent Don­ald J. Trump’s state deputy direc­tor, Eric Mahroum of Bed­ford, Legvold was a county co-chair of the Trump cam­paign.)

In an in­ter­view dur­ing the meet­ing Thurs­day, Legvold said more del­i­cately that she op­posed Shafi be­cause “our county turned pur­ple and this is only gonna turn it even more pur­ple.”

But her Face­book page, which has 2,358 fol­low­ers, in­cluded posts warn­ing against an “Is­lamic con­quest of Amer­ica” and an­other post say­ing “Gov­er­nor Ab­bott came out in sup­port of the Is­lamiza­tion of our Repub­li­can Party of Texas to­day … He is very much part of the Deep State.”

In­stead of elect­ing Legvold to state party of­fice as they did in 2012 — prompt­ing the lib­eral Texas Ob­server to pro­file her as “a nearly bot­tom­less foun­tain of para­noid racism” — county Repub­li­cans voted 13949 to keep Shafi and leave the days of party lead­ers such as Legvold, O’Brien and fel­low com­plainant Dale At­te­bery, an Ar­ling­ton con­ser­va­tive ac­tivist.

Precinct chairs cheered the vote for Shafi, and cheered yet again after­ward when At­te­bery tossed his name badge at the stage and quit the party.

“If I’d known that was all it took [for At­te­bery to leave], we’d have done it years ago,” Fort Worth precinct chair Ron­nie L. Sta­ple­ton said.

O’Brien left with­out com­ment. Legvold, still in her niqab, moped out.

“It’s sad that peo­ple are that child­ish,” said the other party vice chair, Chris Gar­cia of Fort Worth. (Some chairs had even op­posed the ap­point­ment of a Latino of­fi­cer as to­ken “diver­sity.”)

For­mer county party chair Jen Hall of Fort Worth said she was “very pleased” with the vote fa­vor­ing Shafi: “We needed to move on.”

Hurst Repub­li­can Trasa Robert­son Cobern, daugh­ter of Si Robert­son of “Duck Dy­nasty,” said she is “very ex­cited.”

“The party has shown that our roots lie in the Con­sti­tu­tion and free­dom,” she said.

“We’ve re­ally come for­ward. Now we’ll see where we can go in 2020.”

And who else needs to be left be­hind.

[email protected]­GRAM.COM Bud Kennedy

Sara Legvold of Keller, a co-chair of Pres­i­dent Trump’s lo­cal cam­paign in 2016, wore a niqab to mock Mus­lims at the county party meet­ing Thurs­day.

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