A conservative gubernatorial candidate in Illinois is getting much criticism for a campaign ad that's being called racist, sexist, and transphobic.
State Rep. Jeanne Ives is positioning herself to the right of Gov. Bruce Rauner, whom she's challenging in the Republican primary. Even though Rauner, first elected in 2014, is pretty far right himself, Ives's commercial claims he's betrayed conservatives.
The "Thank You, Bruce Rauner" ad features a masculine-looking person in a dress, supposedly a transgender woman, saying, "Thank you for signing legislation that lets me use the girls' restroom." The Illinois nondiscrimination law has long allowed trans people access to the restrooms of their choice, but Rauner did sign a bill that made it easier to change the gender marker on a birth certificate.
The commercial also shows a woman wearing a pink "pussy hat" and saying, "Thank you for making all Illinois families pay for my abortions," and an African-American woman in a Chicago Teachers Union T-shirt thanking Rauner for bailing out the city's public schools. Rauner did sign a bill expanding abortion-related insurance coverage for Medicaid recipients and state employees, and he signed a school funding plan designed to help impoverished districts -- but in Ives's view, those are not good things.
The ad began running Friday and is available on YouTube. Not only Democrats but members of Ives's own party denounced it.
"There is no place in the Illinois Republican Party for rhetoric that attacks our fellow Illinoisans based on their race, gender, or humanity," Illinois Republican Party chairman Tim Schneider said in a statement, according to Politico. "Representative Ives's campaign ad does not reflect who we are as the Party of Lincoln and as proud residents of our great and diverse state. She should pull down the ad and immediately apologize to the Illinoisans who were negatively portrayed in a cowardly attempt to stoke political division."
But Ives isn't backing down. "The commercial does not attack people, it tackles issues, I truly believe illustrating the constituencies Rauner has chosen to serve, to the exclusion of others," she said in an appearance Monday at the City Club of Chicago, the Chicago Tribune reports.
She defended the portrayal of the transgender woman, whom she called a "transgender man." "The transgender man, that's exactly what typically a transgender man looks like," she said. A member of the audience yelled, "No, it's not," and Ives replied, "With all due respect, look, I've had him show up at my door."
Illinois voters will pick their gubernatorial candidates in the primary election March 20. Leading contenders for the Democratic nomination, all LGBT-friendly, are J.B. Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune, head of a private equity investment fund, and cousin of transgender activist Jennifer Pritzker; Chris Kennedy, former head of Chicago's Merchandise Mart -- a complex of offices and home-furnishings showrooms -- and a son of Robert F. Kennedy; and state Sen. Daniel Biss.
Watch Ives's ad below.