Bud Kennedy

A local Trump campaign official mocked Muslims as Tarrant Republicans voted

‘I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive,’ says Shahid Shafi on being American and a Muslim

A small group within the Tarrant County Republican Party has been calling for Dr. Shahid Shafi to be removed from his post as vice chairman because he is a Muslim. Many more have come out in support of Shafi.
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A small group within the Tarrant County Republican Party has been calling for Dr. Shahid Shafi to be removed from his post as vice chairman because he is a Muslim. Many more have come out in support of Shafi.

The Tarrant County Republican Party ridded itself of an old demon last week, and gained hope for future victories.

Once a recognized party leader and elected state party official, Keller Republican Sara Legvold was left sitting alone in the narthex of a Richland Hills church Thursday night, wearing a niqab and mocking Muslim women as party precinct chairs inside defied religious bigotry and voted to keep Vice Chair Shahid Shafi of Southlake.

It was Legvold who pushed Shafi’s local appointment into the national headlines in the first place. Her Aug. 19 Facebook post called for Republicans to reject Shafi as a “practicing, mosque-attending Muslim” and also to do away with the idea of a diverse “big tent” Republican Party, outraging elected officials from Austin to Washington.

On Friday, with national cameras watching to see whether Republicans in Texas’ largest reliably red county would punish Shafi for his religion, Legvold chose to show up covered head-to-toe in a black garment, scarf and veil similar to a burqa, leaving only her eyes and glasses visible.

Reporters were confused. But local Republicans knew right away.

“That’s just Sara,” one said, turning his back.

For years, the party has said “that’s just Sara” as she called Muslims “vermin,” railed against immigrants and party officials on her Facebook page “Protect Texas” and praised apartheid in South Africa.

Finally, the party rejected her years of foreigner-bashing and jihad conspiracy theories, also promoted by author and speaker Dorrie O’Brien, still a current elected party precinct chair in the Tarrant County portion of Grand Prairie.

On Aug. 19, Legvold posted a Facebook warning against Shafi’s appointment and an “infiltration” of Tarrant County: “It is past time we took our Party back with no apologies to anyone before any more damage is done.”

She signed the post, “Trump Campaign Chair.”

(According to a Jan. 21, 2016 email from President Donald J. Trump’s state deputy director, Eric Mahroum of Bedford, Legvold was a county co-chair of the Trump campaign.)

Sara Legvold of Keller, a co-chair of President Trump’s local campaign in 2016, wore a niqab to mock Muslims at the county party meeting Thursday. Bud Kennedy bud@star-telegram.com

In an interview during the meeting Thursday, Legvold said more delicately that she opposed Shafi because “our county turned purple and this is only gonna turn it even more purple.”

But her Facebook page, which has 2,358 followers, included posts warning against an “Islamic conquest of America” and another post saying “Governor Abbott came out in support of the Islamization of our Republican Party of Texas today … He is very much part of the Deep State.”

Instead of electing Legvold to state party office as they did in 2012 — prompting the liberal Texas Observer to profile her as “a nearly bottomless fountain of paranoid racism” — county Republicans voted 139-49 to keep Shafi and leave the days of party leaders such as Legvold, O’Brien and fellow complainant Dale Attebery, an Arlington conservative activist.

Precinct chairs cheered the vote for Shafi, and cheered yet again afterward when Attebery tossed his name badge at the stage and quit the party.

“If I’d known that was all it took [for Attebery to leave], we’d have done it years ago,” Fort Worth precinct chair Ronnie L. Stapleton said.

Shahid Shafi autographed copies of the Star-Telegram Saturday at a Republican woman’s club meeting in Fort Worth. Haltom City Republican Mike Snyder looks on. Bud Kennedy bud@star-telegram.com

O’Brien left without comment. Legvold, still in her niqab, moped out.

“It’s sad that people are that childish,” said the other party vice chair, Chris Garcia of Fort Worth. (Some chairs had even opposed the appointment of a Latino officer as token “diversity.”)

Former county party chair Jen Hall of Fort Worth said she was “very pleased” with the vote favoring Shafi: “We needed to move on.”

Hurst Republican Trasa Robertson Cobern, daughter of Si Robertson of “Duck Dynasty,” said she is “very excited.”

“The party has shown that our roots lie in the Constitution and freedom,” she said.

“We’ve really come forward. Now we’ll see where we can go in 2020.”

And who else needs to be left behind.

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Columnist Bud Kennedy is a Fort Worth guy who covered high school football at 16 and has moved on to two Super Bowls, seven political conventions and 16 Texas Legislature sessions. First on the scene of a 1988 DFW Airport crash, he interviewed passengers running from the burning plane. He made his first appearance in the paper before he was born: He was sold for $600 in the adoption classifieds.