GOP leader suspended for social media exchange

April 24, 2013 • State News

[auth] ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The executive director of the Bernalillo County GOP was suspended Wednesday for making inappropriate social media comments about women testifying for a minimum wage hike.

During a Tuesday night Bernalillo County commission meeting, a Twitter comment from the account of Bernalillo County Republican Party Executive Director Steve Kush referred to a volunteer who was testifying on behalf of Working America as a “radical (expletive).”

Then, as that same group’s director, Chelsey Evans, waited to testify, there was a comment from Kush’s Facebook account that said, “Uh oh another Working America chick…nice boots.”

Bob Cornelius, the county party’s former executive director, replied, “Maybe she used those shoes to walk Central,” a reference to a street in Albuquerque known for prostitution.

A follow-up post from Kush’s account said the woman was “hot enough to almost make me register democrat.”

A statement from Bernalillo County GOP Chair Frank Ruvolo on Wednesday afternoon said Kush had been suspended without pay indefinitely for his “insensitive remarks.”

Kush then issued a formal apology, saying the remarks on his personal Facebook page “were both insensitive and inappropriate. I regret my now obvious ill-fated attempt at humor.”

Cornelius apologized on Facebook and to the woman personally. Cornelius said he was not at the meeting and did not know Evans, but that he had reached out to her first thing Wednesday morning and apologized for what he called inappropriate, unfair and degrading comments.

“I’ve been thinking about my comment last night. I did make that comment in jest & I do apologize to this lady for this off color comment,” the updated post reads. “It’s not fair to her, and it was inappropriate for me to makes comments like that.”

The exchanges were circulated Wednesday morning by the liberal-leaning ProgressNow, which criticized the GOP for attacking hard-working women.

“If the Republican Party wants to know why they have such a hard time connecting with young women, they should start by examining the very public way their leaders feel about young working women,” Pat Davis, executive director of ProgressNow New Mexico, said in a press release. “Mr. Kush, Mr. Cornelius and the Republican Party owe these particular women an apology as public as the forum where they chose to attack them.”

State GOP Chairman John Billingsley issued an apology to the women individually, and “to the women of New Mexico.”

Evans said she was disappointed by the attacks.

“Comments like those have no place in public discourse,” she said in an email.

“Despite these degrading comments,” she wrote, “we are focused on celebrating a victory in Bernalillo County for all of working families, and we applaud all the hard work by our members, organizers and activists, and we will continue to push this effort statewide.”

The commission voted 3-2 to raise the minimum wage in the county’s unincorporated areas to $8.50 an hour, matching the wage approved by Albuquerque voters in November.

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