ABC News' Jeff Zeleny reports:
A former Miss America winner who is now a GOP candidate for Congress was called a string of profane names today, including "street walker," "love child" and "Miss Queen. " Her attacker? A local Republican Party chairman in central Illinois.
Erika Harold, the 2003 winner of the Miss America contest, announced two weeks ago that she was running from Illinois' 13th District. Her decision to challenge Rep. Rodney Davis in the Republican primary has divided some local party members and prompted the name-calling. A full account of the episode first appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Harold, a 33-year-old graduate of Harvard Law School, is black. The criticism against her - from Jim Allen, chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party - carried strong racist overtones.
He launched his criticism in a letter today to Republican News Watch, a local conservative news site. He derided her Miss America platform of advocating for abstinence and against school bullying.
"The little queen touts her abstinence, and she won the crown because she got bullied in school - boohoo, kids are cruel, life sucks and you move on," Allen wrote. "Now, Miss Queen is being used like a street walker, and her pimps are the DEMOCRAT PARTY and RINO REPUBLICANS."
He went on to call her "the love child of the DNC."
The editor of Republican News Watch, Doug Ibendahl, said the comments were "outrageous" and underscored "why we as Republicans fail to gain any respect from minority voters.
"If officials in my party fail to understand how destructive it is to attack an impressive person like Erika Harold merely because she dares to challenge the good old boys, the GOP will remain a losing party for decades," Ibendahl wrote. "This stay-in-the-back-of-the-bus mentality destroys any hope the Republican Party has for regaining momentum in future elections."
Allen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Davis, 43, was elected to Congress last fall by a slim margin. His district runs across central Illinois, from Champaign to the Illinois suburbs of St. Louis.
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- Erika Harold