TAMPA — Carol Carter, a Republican state committeewoman representing Hillsborough County, resigned Thursday after the St. Petersburg Times reported she forwarded an e-mail joke that was attacked as being racist.
Carter gave her resignation to state GOP chairman Jim Greer after speaking with him Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
"Carol Carter has been a hard-working, loyal Republican for many years," Greer said in a statement. "I appreciate her many notable contributions to our party, but this action I have no tolerance for, regardless of the circumstances or intent."
Carter sent the e-mail that led to her resignation Friday, the day the Republican National Committee announced the selection of its first African-American chairman, Michael Steele.
The e-mail, with the subject line "Amazing!" read:
"How can 2,000,000 blacks get into Washington, DC in 1 day in sub zero temps when 200,000 couldn't get out of New Orleans in 85 degree temps with four days notice?"
Carter followed up with an apology e-mail to the county's Republican Executive Committee board saying she had sent the e-mail only to eight people and was "sorry that it was received in a negative manner. I do hope that we are going to be allowed to keep our sense of humor."
Carter did not return calls for comment.
Among those who received the original e-mail last week was Janice Torgersen, corresponding secretary for the Hillsborough County GOP. She said she immediately deleted it and called Carter to tell her it was inappropriate.
"There's no place for it in our party," she said. "At the same time, I'm tragically sad to be losing someone like her. Why do intelligent people do dumb things? That's the question."
This isn't the first time Hillsborough County Republicans have had to apologize for racist e-mails.
In October, former state party finance chairman Al Austin offered a mea culpa for forwarding an e-mail joke referring to the assassination of Barack Obama, and just days before the general election former county GOP chairman David Storck apologized for a forwarded e-mail warning of the threat of carloads of black people going to the polls to vote for Obama.
Storck was replaced by Deborah Cox-Roush in the party's elections in December.
In an interview with the Times after her election, she said Storck's e-mail was blown out of proportion and the issue was dead.
"The idea that the Republicans are not inclusive is just not true," she said. "But we need to do a better job of getting rid of this perception."
Republican Todd Marks, who announced plans Thursday to run for the state House seat that Republican Faye Culp will give up to term limits in 2010, said he didn't believe the sentiment expressed by Carter's e-mail is pervasive in the party.
"This is an individual's lack of discretion," he said. "A new generation of leadership, including efforts made by our new chairwoman, are working hard to ensure that minorities are welcome in the Republican Party. An individual's bad judgment shouldn't be held against the party as a whole."
Janet Zink can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3401.