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Confessions of a young conservative

BY ANDREW GROSSMAN

Published September 24, 2006

Morgan Wilkins will not make out with you if you recruit 10 volunteers for Republican campaign efforts.

Wilkins - a field organizer dispatched to Michigan to rally college students - created a group on Facebook.com promising to make out with anyone who brought her 10 volunteers.

Wilkins, a student at the University of Louisville, said the group was a joke.

The College Republican National Committee wasn't amused. The organization fired her on Friday.

The creation of the Facebook group was the final straw for the CRNC. The national committee put Wilkins on probation on Sept. 12 when she told The Michigan Daily that she wanted to plan recruiting events where participants would shoot BB guns at cardboard cutouts of Democratic leaders like John Kerry and try to catch someone posing as an illegal immigrant.

The suggestions prompted an outcry from both Republicans and Democrats, including the University chapters of the College Republicans and College Democrats. Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman and Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean also condemned Wilkins's ideas.

Wilkins's superiors banned her from working on the University campus when she held up a sign at a Sept. 17 rally on the Diag for Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) that said "Debbie kills babies" - a reference to Stabenow's support for abortion rights.

In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Wilkins said her experiences have strengthened her anti-abortion stance. She got pregnant at age 15. Wilkins said she could have ended the pregnancy for $500.

"The first thing that came to mind: If I get $500, no one has to know," Wilkins said. "I go to high school, I go to college, I get into a sorority. I'm a normal girl. I've always wanted to be a lawyer; I've always wanted to work in D.C."

But she chose to have the child.

"My son has got a personality, he likes certain things, he doesn't like certain things, he thinks certain things are funny," she said. "Just because things are hard you don't kill a kid, a human being with likes and dislikes."

Wilkins said deciding against having an abortion probably helped cement her conservatism.

"Had I had that abortion, I would have probably been forced to be a liberal in order to live with myself," she said. "I would have had to surround myself with a group of people that told me that was OK."

That's only part of the roller coaster of events that led her to Michigan.

As a child, Wilkins lived a comfortable life in Lexington, Ky.

"I went from the perfect Christian home, leader of my Bible study in middle school - we never missed church," she said "Everybody kind of looked up to us as the perfect conservative Christian home."

Her life got complicated when Wilkins was 14 and her parents divorced. She and her mother moved in with her mother's boyfriend in Louisville, Ky. Forced to go to high school in a new town and still reeling from her parents' split, Wilkins was adrift. She found a boyfriend who had spent time in juvenile detention and abused drugs. She stole cocaine from her mother and began using it herself.

At 15, Wilkins moved into an apartment with her boyfriend. At first, because of her age, she could only find a job bagging groceries. She later worked in a pizza parlor, then as a hostess in a restaurant. Later that year, Wilkins did her first stint in drug rehabilitation.

After having the baby, Wilkins was working 40 hours a week, going to school and taking care of her son. She maintained a grade point average of 4.0 throughout high school, she said.

Wilkins said she stayed off cocaine during the pregnancy and immediately afterward, but relapsed when her boyfriend went to prison on a drug charge.

"After he got sent to prison, I just went back," she said. "I don't know what caused it. I'm just sitting there one day; I haven't talked to my drug buddies in years."

Not knowing how to contact her former friends, Wilkins opened the phone book.

"I just open it up and I find the first person I think that might have it," she said.

That person did have cocaine, and Wilkins was soon addicted again. She held onto her son, but her grandparents, whom she said both have felonies on their records relates to protesting abortion clinics, helped care for him.

Throughout her addiction, Wilkins clung to the Christian conservatism she was raised with.

"Most druggie people are liberals, so I'd always be stuck in a room with a bunch of liberals," she said. "No matter what state I was in in my life, I knew the conservative policies were the correct ones."

Soon, she began to lose her grip on life. Strung out and out of cash, Wilkins turned to her family. She went back to rehab but was back on drugs soon after she got out.

After prodding from family friends, Wilkins started going to church and rediscovered the Christianity of her youth. Around age 18, her life slowly began to change again.


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