Politics

Harris County Democratic Party Precinct Chair Resigns After Racist Email

John Robert Behrman questioned whether party members of Nigerian descent are loyal to the United States.

Texas Southern University during early voting in 2019.

A precinct chair with the Harris County Democratic Party has resigned after sending an email last week criticizing local party members of Nigerian descent and questioning their loyalty to the United States.

The email, written by precinct Chair John Robert Behrman, was in response to the party’s upcoming election, in which precinct chairs will vote to replace outgoing HCDP chair Lillie Schechter on June 27. Candidates include Odus Evbagharu, Charles Onwuche and Ted Weisgal.

"I find it disturbing but not that surprising that Lillie Schechter is delivering two Nigerian immigrants as her successors as Chair of the Harris County Democratic Party to be elected at the June 27 meeting," Behrman wrote in the email to party members on Friday.

More than 100 precinct chairs have endorsed Odus Evbagharu, chief of staff to state Rep. Jon Rosenthal, to replace outgoing party leader Schechter.

 

But Behrman recommended two different candidates instead.

"I have no doubts about their loyalty to this party and our country," he wrote in the email.

"I doubt either of Lillie's Nigerians will be inspirational or even competent leaders," he continued. "Charles Chukwuebuka Onwuche, Lillie's other would be Nigerian successor, may be a GOP plant."

In a statement on social media, the Harris County Democratic Party confirmed the email resulted in Behrman’s resignation.

"We would like to thank those involved in exposing the racist remarks made by someone within our organization which ultimately led to his resignation,” the HCDP said in a Facebook post. "It is because of your vigilance and commitment to our values that we are making great progress in our fight for inclusion and social justice."

Harris County Young Democrats president James Burnett released a statement supporting Evbagharu and Harris County Democratic Party executive director Delilah Agho-Otoghile.

 

“The notion that because of a person’s Nigerian descent they are not fully competent nor qualified to hold high office within the Harris County Democratic Party, the notion that certain elected officials (mostly African-American) need to be tolerated, and the notion that the people of Nigerian descent are possible GOP plants into [the] Democratic Party whose loyalty needs to be vetted, is outright racist,” Burnett wrote.

Last year, the Harris County Republican Party’s newly elected chair Keith Nielsen resigned after posting a racist image on Facebook of a Martin Luther King Jr. quote juxtaposed with a banana.

Nielsen took office in August despite claiming that he would forfeit the role amid backlash to the Facebook post, then stepped down four months later.

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Jen Rice

Reporter

Jen Rice is the City Hall reporter at Houston Public Media, where she covers topics like Houston City Council and housing. Jen was born and raised in Houston's 100-year floodplain. She graduated from Barnard College at Columbia University and has a master's degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs...

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