SAN FRANCISCO
03/01/2013 03:13 pm ET | Updated Mar 01, 2013

Harmeet Dhillon, Sikh Attorney, Hit By Racist Smears From Own Party

A Republican official in the running to become the California GOP's first female Vice Chair has been on a the receiving end of a racist smear campaign from within her own party that's attempted to label her a terrorist sympathizer.

San Francisco attorney Harmeet Dhillon, a practicing Sikh who immigrated from India as a child, was slammed in a Facebook post written by Vera Eyzendooren, the president of the San Bernadino County Federation of Republican Women. "I was told by one of Harmeet's friends that because of her religion her loyalty is to the Muslim religion," it read. "So she will defend a muslim [sic] beheading 2 men without any hesitation...She is not Republican."

Sikhism is an entirely separate religion from Islam, with some 27 million adherents around the world.

The post, which linked to a blog entry about a double murder in New Jersey, has since been deleted.

In an interview with the Riverside Press-Enterprise, Eyzendooren insisted her comments were taken out of context. "I don't know if she's a sympathizer or not," Eyzendooren said. "I don't care about her religion either."

Eyzendooren's comments were quickly denounced by Republicans across the state. "The views expressed by Ms. Eyzedooren in no way reflect those of the California Federation of Republican Women," wrote that group in a post on its Facebook page. "That type of hate speech has no place in our party or organization."

Those sentiments were echoed in a joint statement from state party chair Tom Del Beccaro, Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff and Assembly GOP leader Connie Conway. "Blatant racism has no place in the party of Lincoln," it read. "We strongly denounce this hateful speech in this and any other venue."

Dhillon, the chair of the San Francisco Republican Party, is a rising star in the state's deeply troubled GOP--a party that doesn't control a single statewide office, badly trails Democrats in both houses of the California legislature and faces a rapidly changing electorate whose demographics favor their opponents. She is seen as someone who can bring a fresh face to the cause.

But Dhillon has drawn fire from some conservatives over her support of the American Civil Liberties Union and past donation to the campaign of Democrat Kamala Harris, who was then running to become San Francisco District Attorney.

"Parties and candidates are continually evolving and just like in business, the competition is always looking for ways to stay ahead of their opposition," Dhillon wrote in a recent editorial in the Orange County Register. "Republicans, too, can evolve and learn from recent defeats, effecting productive change toward how the party approaches winning elections."

The election for state party vice chair will occur at this weekend's California Republican Party Spring Convention in Sacramento.

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