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Out Illinois Candidate Says Ad Against Him Is Homophobic

Kevin Morrison
Kevin Morrison

Kevin Morrison, a Democratic candidate for Cook County Board, says the ad depicts him as limp-wristed; Republicans counter that it shows him as a puppet. 

A gay Democratic candidate for Cook County Board in Illinois says a campaign mailer from the Illinois Republican Party is a homophobic dog whistle - but Republican leaders contend it merely depicts him as the puppet of powerful Democrats.

The mailer, which went out last week, portrays Kevin Morrison, a candidate from Chicago's northwestern suburbs, as a marionette with strings controlled by Michael Madigan, speaker of the Illinois House and chairman of the state's Democratic Party. But it shows him with a limp wrist and standing on tiptoe, features that led Morrison and his supporters to term it antigay.


Morrison countered with a mailer of his own, zooming in on the wrist and calling it a "dog whistle to homophobes," the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

"The fact of the matter would be that, for one, it is National Coming Out Day, and he sends out his first attack ad with his [Illinois Gov. Bruce] Rauner money against an LGBT candidate depicting me with a limp wrist, which everyone knows is a caricature to shame LGBT individuals," Morrison said Thursday. "The point of the matter is that I haven't received a penny from Madigan and those attacks are unfounded."

Republicans denied that their mailer pandered to homophobia. "The whole image paints the entire picture clearly," Thomas Sterling, executive director of the Illinois Republican Party, said in a statement to the Sun-Times. "This is nothing but a desperate attempt from Kevin Morrison to try and hide the fact that he takes his orders from [Cook County Board President Toni] Preckwinkle and Mike Madigan."

Morrison, who is challenging incumbent Republican Tim Schneider for the 15th District seat on the county board, didn't accept the Republicans' explanation. "Everybody knows a limp wrist is meant to be derogatory and an attack on LGBTQ individuals," he told the Chicago Tribune.

Nor did the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which has endorsed Morrison; he is a longtime Democratic activist and veteran of Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign who would be the first out member of the Cook County Board. Cook is the most populous county in Illinois and includes Chicago.

"Let me be clear: Tim Schneider and his team knew exactly what they were doing when they altered a photo of Kevin Morrison to show him with a limp wrist and on his tiptoes," said a statement issued by Annise Parker, Victory Fund president and CEO. "Schneider is taking a page from the playbook of his pal in the White House - engaging in the divisive and destructive politics that Donald Trump thrives on. For too long, openly LGBTQ candidates were defeated by opponents who appealed to homophobia in a desperate effort to win votes, but I am confident this attack ad will backfire on Schneider. He has misread and misjudged his constituents, which is unsurprising given how rarely he interacts with or listens to them. Cook County voters are demanding leaders who unite their constituents, respect differences, and put forward positive solutions for the region. Kevin is running to do just that, and we are thrilled he is on his way to becoming the first openly LGBTQ person to serve on the commission."

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