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High school tweeter gives Sam Brownback a political headache

November 28, 2011 |  9:31 am

Emma Sullivan tweets on her decision not to apologize to the Kansas governor.

Emma Sullivan, the Kansas teenager whose tweet about Gov. Sam Brownback has turned the conservative Republican into a social media target, is standing by her refusal to apologize.

In an exchange of emails with the Los Angeles Times, Sullivan on Monday said she won't comply with her principal’s demand that she write an apology to the governor by today. Telephone calls to the principal, the school district office and to the governor’s media staff were not returned.

The face-off between Sullivan, 18, a Shawnee Mission East senior, and Brownback, 55, a former senator and 2008 presidential aspirant, has become the stuff of a David versus Goliath showdown with a touch of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” -– at least as far as some liberal elements of the blogosphere are concerned.

Sullivan’s followers have increased from about five dozen to more than 7,400 in just days, a rate of growth that would be the envy of any celebrity. She out-pulls Brownback by a ratio of better than 2 to 1.

Sullivan has attracted a range of support from the liberal side of the blogosphere, which sees the battle as one for her free speech rights. That Brownback, who has been out front in his conservative positions including strongly opposing abortion rights, is on the other side is all the sweeter for liberals.

The incident began Nov. 21, when Sullivan attended a Youth in Government program at the state Capitol.

At the event, she tweeted: “Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot.”

In reality, she made no such comment. But in the brave new world of instantaneous electronic communication, that doesn’t matter. The tweet itself was reality enough for Brownback’s staff, which -- like most political protectors -- routinely monitors the social media whirl.

Staffers contacted the youth program. Word eventually went downhill, and Sullivan was called to the principal’s office.

There, principal Karl R. Krawitz reportedly ordered her to send Brownback a letter of apology and even, Sullivan said to the Associated Press, suggested talking points for the note she was to hand in Monday.

“I've decided not to write the letter but I hope this opens the door for average citizens to voice their opinion & to be heard!” Sullivan tweeted.

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-- Michael Muskal

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