A controversial new ad by Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeanne Ives targets the transgender community, illegal immigrants and women who get abortions — in a statewide television ad that some are calling “repulsive” and “appalling.”
The Ives campaign said the ad “represents Gov. [Bruce] Rauner’s chosen constituents based on the policy choices he made.” Spokeswoman Kathleen Murphy said the ad will begin airing this weekend throughout the state.
It didn’t take long for both Democrats and Republicans to criticize the new ad put out by Ives, a social and fiscal conservative who entered the race last fall. Then, she attacked Rauner’s signing of a bill that expanded taxpayer funding of abortions and for another bill that limits local cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
The ad marks a sharp public shift to the right in Ives’ campaign. Ives had been gaining attention following a debate with Rauner at the Chicago Tribune last week. And her sharp critiques of the governor were used in a digital ad by Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker.
Among several speakers in the ad are people who appear to be a transgender person, a Chicago Teachers Union member and a Women’s March participant. The campaign did not respond when asked if those in the ad are actors.
“Thank you for legislation that lets me use the girls’ bathroom,” says one person dressed in a red dress; the campaign did not say if it is a man or a transgender woman. That targeted a House bill Rauner signed into law which allows transgender citizens to change their gender designation without going through gender reassignment or gender confirmation surgery.
“Thank you for making all Illinois families pay for my abortions,” says a woman wearing a pink hat like those worn by women attending the women’s march last year.
“Thank you Bruce Rauner for opposing law enforcement and making Illinois a sanctuary state for illegal Illinois immigrant criminals,” says a hoodie-clad white man with a red handkerchief over his mouth.
“Thank you for making the rest of Illinois bail out Chicago teacher pensions and for giving [Mayor] Rahm [Emanuel] everything he wanted,” says an African-American woman wearing a Chicago Teachers Union T-shirt.
Critics of the ad came out in droves. Former Illinois Republican party chairman Pat Brady said in a tweet this is the Ives “we have known for years. There is no room in the Republican Party for racist, bigoted, homophobic candidates like her.”
And on Saturday, Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider said Ives should pull the ad and “immediately apologize to the Illinoisans who were negatively portrayed in a cowardly attempt to stoke political division.”
“There is no place in the Illinois Republican Party for rhetoric that attacks our fellow Illinoisans based on their race, gender or humanity,” Schneider said in a statement. “Representative Ives’ campaign ad does not reflect who we are as the Party of Lincoln and as proud residents of our great and diverse state.”
Ives’ campaign dismissed Schneider’s criticism.
Republican Attorney General Candidate Erika Harold said the ad “denigrates, mocks and marginalizes groups of Illinoisans and cannot represent our Republican Party.”
“I call on the Ives campaign to immediately take it off the air,” Harold said in a statement. “The Republican Party must be about fighting for the ideals and values that have made our country the envy of the world and promoting the dignity and value of every Illinoisan.”
Equality Illinois said Ives is “launching a campaign of division and rancor.”
“We need a governor who will stand up for all Illinoisans, not someone who will target transgender Illinoisans for their personal political benefit,” spokesman Brian Johnson said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois called it a “sad” effort.
“It is sad that a candidate for the office of governor of Illinois would seek to divide voters by attacking our neighbor, friends and colleagues who are newcomers and refugees, those of a different race, those who are transgender and poor women in need of health care,” said Colleen Connell, ACLU of Illinois’ executive director.
Democratic gubernatorial candidates were quick to react as well. Businessman Chris Kennedy’s campaign called it “appalling and disrespectful to everyone who makes Illinois what it is today.”
“It’s a slap in the face to everyone who’s brought progress and inclusivity to Illinois,” spokeswoman Rebecca Evans said. “We already have enough hate and bigotry in the White House. We don’t need a governor who stands silent against Donald Trump, and we certainly don’t need a governor who echoes Donald Trump.”
Pritzker spokeswoman Galia Slayen said Pritzker “vehemently disagrees with the poison the Ives campaign is spreading on the issues that matter.”
“While Bruce Rauner needs to be defeated in this election, this type of hate has no place in our politics,” she said in a statement.
And state Sen. Daniel Biss’ campaign called it “repulsive.”
“It’s absolutely antithetical of Illinois values and the type of politics we should be holding ourselves to,” spokesman Tom Elliott said. “Any elected official or candidate who does not disavow this horribly offensive ad outright should be ashamed. We must resist this type of racist, xenophobic and transphobic rhetoric at all levels.”
Rauner’s campaign didn’t comment on the social issue Ives tried to highlight, instead saying “Gov. Rauner is the only candidate in either party who will take on Mike Madigan, cut taxes and reform our state.”
“Rep. Ives has already admitted that she’s not willing to take on Mike Madigan’s and will keep his 32 percent tax hike — not surprising given her history of opposing property tax reductions. Looks like J.B. Pritzker has some competition as Mike Madigan’s favorite candidate,” spokesman Will Allison said.
Ives’ campaign earlier on Friday released another TV ad, which will also run statewide for a week. The campaign called it a chance for voters to see her as the “conservative reform candidate.”
That ad features shots of Ives with her family and speaking to the camera: “I was raised to speak plainly, work hard for what you want and respect others who do the same.”
Ives, a Republican state representative from Wheaton, got a $500,000 boost to her campaign fund last week from Lake Forest businessman Richard Uihlein. The donation marked a shift for Uihlein, who over the years has contributed more than $2.6 million to Rauner. But he has given the governor nothing since late 2014.
Still, Ives — who has about $1 million in her campaign fund — will have to go up against Rauner’s staggering $55.6 million campaign cash on hand.