They call them the Tarrant 49ers.
That’s one of the nicknames that evolved for the dissenters after last week’s 139-49 vote among Tarrant Republicans to keep Shahid Shafi, a Muslim, in party leadership.
Now a Rio Grande Valley man is offering a “$500 cash bounty” to anyone who can provide him the names of those 49.
George Rice said he wants to be able to make sure that party members gathered at state conventions know who voted which way in Tarrant County.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Star-Telegram
“I think it’s pretty reasonable to say we deserve to know who these individuals are,” said Rice, a 36-year-old who belongs to the Hidalgo County Young Republicans. “I don’t think the Republican Party has any room for bigots.”
Social media was abuzz through the weekend with speculation as to who the 49 are, and the desire of many to see a list of their names, even as some Republicans stressed that the vote has been taken and the party needs to move forward.
“For God’s sake, those who won, get over your victory, and those who lost, get over your loss,” Pat Williford, a local Republican, posted on Facebook. “Put on you(r) armor and fight the Democrats.”
Tarrant County Republican Party Chairman Darl Easton said the party will not publicly release a list showing how precinct chairs voted on this issue behind closed doors. But precinct chairs may come and review the paper ballots cast last week.
“We’re keeping track of who looks at them,” Easton said. “We ask them to swear not to release it to anybody. It’s well guarded.”
Easton, who has called on the party to join together “to heal,” said he has received at least one request from the public to release the list. He denied that request.
And he said he’s not terribly surprised someone would offer to pay for a list of the way the votes were cast.
“We’ve got all kinds of people in this world,” he said. “I don’t think anybody in our executive committee would take $500 as a bounty to release the names.”
Tarrant County Republican Party leaders voted last week — after more than 2 1/2 hours of private discussion among precinct chairs — to keep Shafi as a vice chairman of the party.
This issue first 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, Dorrie O’Brien, a precinct chair from Grand Prairie, 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. She has not responded to recent requests from the Star-Telegram for comment.
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 left the issue unresolved and pushed it to Jan. 10.
She recently made a post on Facebook noting that a much larger group than the 49 who voted stood behind her on the issue over the past six months.
“So, we weren’t the winners by the numbers (139-49), but (the vote) ... wasn’t bad in a room stacked with intensely mean-spirited people,” she posted, thanking those who stood with her. “That (vote) represents to me the patriotic, the knowledgeable, the lifeblood of the future.
“Not sure how many of those who are in it now will remain in, or will join, the Republican Party of Texas after this,” she posted. “From my point of view, the RPT is killing itself with loose values.”
Rice said he believes there’s a good chance he might eventually get the list of dissenters.
He said he’s heard from people on both sides about his offer.
Some have supported his move. Others have called him a traitor or a “Muslim sympathizer.” And some, he said, asked: “How dare you attack patriots like this?”
“I’m standing behind my conviction,” Rice said. “One of my biggest fears is that this will trickle down into Hidalgo County and the rest of the state.”