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07.11.09

Young GOP Chooses Hate

Audra Shay, the Young Republicans leader accused of endorsing racism on Facebook,  was elected head of the group for GOP members under 40 this afternoon.

Audra Shay, who became the subject of a national controversy after The Daily Beast uncovered racist comments she wrote on Facebook and other social-networking sites, won the race to become head of the Young Republicans by approximately 50 votes (out of about 950 voting delegates) at their national convention this afternoon in Indianapolis.

Shay faced calls to remove herself from the election after appearing to laugh at a racial slur about President Barack Obama, The Daily Beast’s John Avlon exclusively reported. The comments, in which Shay responded to a comment calling blacks “coons,” were quickly deleted, but prompted fellow Young Republicans to urge her to take her hat out of the ring for the national election. And though Shay issued a statement that neither she, nor her Young Republicans slate, “condones the use of racial slurs on my wall,” Avlon reports that Shay has a history of racial comments, encouraging extremism and partisan hate online.

Before the election, Meghan McCain urged the group not to choose hate by electing Shay: “What exactly do the Young Republicans expect to achieve by electing a 38-year-old woman who thinks racial epithets are acceptable?”

Young Republicans insiders had expected the vote to be "very, very close" and said that many delegates were urging unity no matter who the winner turned out to be.

Shay defeated Rachel Hoff, who serves as the Young Republicans’ Director of Media Relations. She ran on a five-point platform that emphasized education, technology, and community outreach. According to George P. Bush, son of Jeb Bush, “Rachel’s professionalism, hard work, and leadership will well-represent the GOP.” Sarah Huckabee, daughter of Mike Huckabee, said, “Rachel Hoff’s approach to politics and life seems to be: ‘Stand Up and Lead.’”

Shay is a 38-year-old Army veteran and mother from Louisiana, who works as an event planner and serves as vice chairman at large for the Young Republicans. She ran on the platform of “Restore, Revitalize, Reinforce,” which emphasized rebranding the Young Republicans as more hip through Facebook and Twitter, and spreading "our message of lower taxes and less government to these corners and let people know that we’re here and we’ll hold the Democrats’ feet to the fire.” She was endorsed in the election by her governor, Bobby Jindal.

Shay came under fire for a Facebook exchange, in which she posted that “WalMart just signed a death warrant” by “endorsing Obama’s health care plan.” A friend named Eric S. Piker weighed in: “It’s the government making us commies… can’t even smoke in my damn car… whats next they going to issue toilet paper once a month .. tell us how to wipe our asses…” Two minutes later, Piker posted again: “Obama Bin Lauden [sic] is the new terrorist… Muslim is on there side [sic]… need to take this country back from all of these mad coons … and illegals.” Immediately after his post, Shay responded: “You tell em Eric! Lol.”

While Shay defended her comment as responding only to Piker’s first post, others on her Facebook page noticed the remarks. “Someone please help a naïve Seattle girl out, is Eric’s comment a racist slur?” asked Cassie Wallender, a national committeewoman from the Washington Young Republican Federation. A minute later, she answered her own question: “Okay, why is this okay? I just looked it up. ‘It comes from a term baracoons (a cage) where they used to place Africans who were waiting to be sent to America to be slaves.’ THIS IS NOT OKAY AND IT’S NOT FUNNY.”

Shay responded that the allegations against her were “political attacks” which “proves that my opponents will stoop to the lowest levels to steal this election from the jaws of victory.”