Jim Roddey, the Allegheny County Republican chairman, apologized today for an election night joke in which he quipped that a supporter of President Obama was "retarded."
Mr. Roddey, the veteran GOP leader, was speaking Tuesday night at state Rep. Randy Vulakovich's celebration of his victory in the special election to fill the North Hills state Senate seat, vacated after former Sen. Jane Orie's conviction for using state resources and staffers in campaigning.
"I was in this parking lot and there was a man looking for a space to park, and I found a space for him," Mr. Roddey said. "And I felt badly -- he looked like he was sort of in distress. And I said, 'Sir, here's a place.' And he said, 'That's a handicapped space.' I said, 'Oh I'm so sorry, I saw that Obama sticker and I thought you were mentally retarded."
The remark, reported in the Post-Gazette's politics blog, Early Returns, was picked up and repeated by a variety of political sites on the Internet. Mr. Roddey's opposite number, Nancy Mills, the Allegheny County Democratic Party, quickly condemned the remark, and called on Mr. Roddey to resign his party post.
In email today, Mr. Roddey called his remarks "regrettable," and added, "I have a long record of supporting people with disabilities and should have remembered that before I spoke. My remarks were inappropriate and I apologize."
Asked to comment on Ms. Mills' statement that he should step down, he said, "Also regrettable."