Harris County Dem precinct chair resigns over email condemning members for Nigerian descent
By Jasper Scherer, Staff writer
A Harris County Democratic Party precinct chair has resigned after sending an email to party members in which he condemned two party chair candidates over their Nigerian descent.
In the email, former precinct chair John Behrman referred to Odus Evbagharu and Charles Onwuche, both of whom are running to succeed outgoing chair Lillie Schechter, as “Lillie’s Nigerians” and suggested Onwuche “may be a GOP plant.”
“Having gained solid majorities in municipal and county government. (sic) I am surprised that Democrats in Harris County are toying with extinction of their own party, turning it over to Lillie Schecter’s (sic) Nigerians,” Behrman wrote, adding that he found it “disturbing but not that surprising that Lillie Schechter is delivering two Nigerian immigrants as her successors.”
Schechter, who has served as party chair since March 2017, is stepping down next week. Precinct chairs will pick between Evbagharu, Onwuche and Ted Weisgal when they elect Schechter’s successor at a June 27 meeting.
In a statement announcing Behrman’s resignation, the party said it “proudly stands united against racism and xenophobia.”
We want to foster conversation and highlight the intersection of race, identity and culture in one of America’s most diverse cities.
“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 party wrote. “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.”
Evbagharu said in a statement he was glad party leadership “took swift action.”
“It’s 2021, diversity strengthens — not weakens — the impact of organizations, including political parties,” Evbagharu said. “I look forward to building equitable and diverse coalitions, if elected chair of the Harris County Democratic Party.”
Onwuche could not be immediately reached for comment.
James Burnett, president of the Harris County Young Democrats, said in a statement that he supports Evbagharu’s bid for party chair, and called on all Democratic clubs and organizations in Harris County to exile Behrman. He also defended the party’s executive director, Delilah Agho-Otoghile, calling her “one of the most experienced and skilled professionals in Democratic politics today.”
“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-Amerian) need to be tolerated, and the notion that people of Nigerian descent are possible GOP plants into (the) Democratic Party whose loyalty needs to be vetted, is outright racist,” Burnett said.
Earlier this week, Evbagharu — who serves as chief of staff to state Rep. Jon Rosenthal, D-Houston, and vice president of the Harris County Young Democrats — rolled out a list of more than 100 precinct chairs who have endorsed his campaign.
Behrman could not be immediately reached for comment. He represented Precinct 39, located in Montrose.
▪︎By Houston Chronicle