After Mus­lim vote, Tar­rant GOP weighs how to move on

Star-Telegram - - Front Page - BY ANNA M. TINS­LEY atins­[email protected]­gram.com

Tar­rant County Repub­li­can lead­ers sent a mes­sage Thurs­day when they re­jected a pro­posal to oust Shahid Shafi from party lead­er­ship be­cause he’s Mus­lim.

But one ques­tion, for many, still lingers. The vote was 139-49 to keep Shafi in of­fice.

So who are the 49 who voted against keep­ing him as a vice chair­man in the party?

“We will not re­lease the names,” Tar­rant County Repub­li­can Party Chair Darl Eas­ton said Fri­day, one day after the long-awaited vote on Shafi’s sta­tus.

The Tar­rant County GOP is a pri­vate group, he said, and is not re­quired to re­lease the names, par­tic­u­larly since the vote was taken be­hind closed doors.

“I should be sur­prised,” Eas­ton said. “But after all the so­cial me­dia, I’m glad it was as small as it was.

“I would have been much hap­pier if it was smaller.”

“49! Un­con­scionable,” one per­son tweeted.

Oth­ers called on so­cial me­dia for the Tar­rant GOP to “kick the other 49 out for not rep­re­sent­ing the val­ues of this GOP party.”

But Tar­rant County Repub­li­cans say it’s time to come back to­gether.

One mes­sage posed on the Tar­rant Repub­li­cans Face­book page sent a mes­sage: “No personal at­tacks. No name call­ing. The vote is over. Move on. #BeBet­terThanTheHaters.”

Eas­ton said it’s time to reach out to all Tar­rant Repub­li­cans and move for­ward.

“I’m hop­ing this will make us stronger, par­tic­u­larly in the eyes of the pub­lic,” Eas­ton said. “There has al­ways been so much doubt out there.

“I think we are go­ing to heal.”

Ar­ling­ton Repub­li­can Dale At­te­bery, who was in­volved in the ef­fort to oust Shafi, re­signed as precinct chair­man and area leader Thurs­day night. He did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

Eas­ton said he doesn’t know of any other res­ig­na­tions.

TAR­RANT MEET­ING

Nearly 200 Repub­li­can precinct chair­men gath­ered at a Rich­land Hills church to weigh in on the is­sue that had been in play for half a year.

Sev­eral precinct chair­men in Thurs­day’s meet­ing said the mood was much dif­fer­ent than in the Novem­ber meet­ing.

Maybe that’s be­cause this is­sue had be­come na­tional news.

The Star-Tele­gram has been re­port­ing about the ef­fort to re­move Shafi since Au­gust. In re­cent months, the Tar­rant party has drawn na­tional at­ten­tion as me­dia out­lets across the coun­try joined in cov­er­age of the is­sue.

One precinct chair­man who de­clined to be named said it was easy to “feel the en­ergy in the room.”

At the same time, pa­tience for many was run­ning thin.

“Peo­ple wanted this to be done and you could feel that,” that precinct chair­man said.

After the meet­ing, many Repub­li­cans said they were glad the is­sue has been set­tled.

“Last night’s vote re­as­sured me per­son­ally that big­otry has no place in GOP Tar­rant County pol­i­tics,” said Kelly Canon, an Ar­ling­ton precinct chair­woman and area leader.

In­ter­nal GOP emails de­liv­ered anony­mously to the Star-Tele­gram last year showed that the ef­fort to re­move Shafi ex­panded to tar­get Eas­ton, Canon and a precinct chair­woman who is mar­ried to a Mus­lim, Lisa Grimaldi Ab­dulka­reem.

Canon said she no longer feels tar­geted, since the precinct chair­man who tar­geted her re­signed after the vote.

Ab­dulka­reem doesn’t feel that it’s over, though.

“I be­lieve peo­ple like Dr. Shafi, Kelly Canon and I will con­tinue to be tar­gets,” she said. “I don’t be­lieve these peo­ple will ever stop un­til they are pushed out of the party.”

But since the meet­ing, Canon said she has had three peo­ple ask her how they can be­come precinct chair­men.

She plans to nom­i­nate them at an up­com­ing meet­ing.

“This is­sue/vote, as un­nec­es­sary as it was, re­ju­ve­nated so many peo­ple to get in­volved in the lo­cal GOP po­lit­i­cal scene,” Canon said. “I’m thrilled.”

SHAFI IS­SUE

This is­sue arose about six months ago, after Eas­ton ap­pointed Shafi, a sur­geon and South­lake coun­cil­man, to the vice chair­man post and fel­low Repub­li­cans ap­proved his pro­posal.

Op­po­si­tion from a small group of lo­cal Repub­li­cans be­gan emerg­ing on so­cial me­dia.

Soon, precinct chair­woman Dor­rie O’Brien of Grand Prairie — who did not re­spond to a re­quest for a com­ment from the Star-Tele­gram — asked for Shafi’s ap­point­ment to be re­con­sid­ered be­cause he’s Mus­lim.

She and oth­ers have long said this is not about re­li­gion but whether Shafi is loyal to Is­lam and Is­lamic law or con­nected to Is­lamic ter­ror groups.

O’Brien’s mo­tion was de­layed un­til after the Nov. 6 elec­tion, which saw Tar­rant County turn blue in the U.S. Se­nate race. Hours of dis­cus­sion be­hind closed doors dur­ing a Novem­ber meet­ing led to no res­o­lu­tion and pushed the is­sue to Thurs­day night.

Shafi, born in In­dia and raised in Pak­istan, trav­eled to the United States to study medicine. He be­came a nat­u­ral­ized cit­i­zen in 2009 and, since then, has been in­volved with the the Repub­li­can Party.

After the vote, Shafi stressed that it’s time to move for­ward, to­gether, as a party.

He said Thurs­day’s vote took a stand “against big­otry of all kinds.”

“Our union is a lit­tle more per­fect to­day ... and it’s time to put di­vi­sions to rest,” he added.

AMANDA MCCOY am­c­[email protected]­gram.com

Dr. Shahid Shafi ad­dresses the news me­dia after a meet­ing of the Tar­rant County Repub­li­can Party on Thurs­day re­jected an ef­fort to re­move him as vice-chair­man. The vote was 139-49 to keep Shafi in of­fice.

AMANDA MCCOY am­c­[email protected]­gram.com

Dor­rie O’Brien, a precinct chair who has been lead­ing the move­ment to re­move Dr. Shahid Shafi as vice-chair­man, ar­rives at a meet­ing of the Tar­rant County Repub­li­can Party on Thurs­day in Rich­land.

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