Erika Harold, a Republican running for attorney general, is urging a GOP legislative candidate to drop out of his race because he asked Harold about her sexual orientation using a slur — while also using the n-word in front of her several times.
“It is quite shocking to see that we’re here,” Harold said Thursday in recounting the experience.
The months-old conversation has everyone from Gov. Bruce Rauner, to his Republican primary opponent state Rep. Jeanne Ives, to Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin urging Burt Minor to drop out of the west suburban House race.
But Minor, the Winfield Township Republican chairman, says his conversation with Harold has been mischaracterized. In a statement, he showed no signs of dropping out, saying he plans to discuss the “facts” and issues relevant to 42nd District voters ahead of the election.
“I believe there is no place for racism or intolerance in the Republican Party and the State of Illinois,” Minor wrote.
Minor did not deny asking Harold about her sexual orientation or using the n-word in front of her.
Harold — a Harvard Law graduate and former Miss America — said it happened in early October as she was meeting with various people in DuPage County to introduce herself and get advice about how to campaign in the county.
Harold said she told him no.
“But then I also made it clear that someone’s sexual orientation should not be used to disqualify them for running for office,” Harold said.
Harold said Minor seemed “surprised” that she was standing up for herself.
Within the same conversation, Minor also asked Harold whether it was ever appropriate to use the n-word, “but he said the full word,” she said.
“I haven’t heard anyone use that word in a very long time, and I told him it was inappropriate for anyone to say that,” Harold said, adding he used the word “about three or four times and did not apologize for doing so.”
Harold said she discussed the incident with fellow Republicans at the time, but did not go public because Minor was not running for office at the time.
“We talked to someone within the party after it happened,” she said. “He wasn’t a candidate at the time but we thought that people should still know about it. From my understanding, this is a conversation that Burt Minor has also been discussing with people. And when people have reached out to me to confirm whether it occurred, I said it did.”
Harold, who is African-American, said she hadn’t experienced anything like that in campaigning statewide.
“I think any woman who is running for political office experiences her share of objectionable language and comments and that’s something that needs to change,” Harold said.
Harold said Minor “doesn’t reflect the party’s ideals.”
“I don’t think he should be a candidate, and I think that he should withdraw from the race,” Harold said.
In his statement, Minor wrote that the conversation was a way to “discuss the challenges she might face in her campaign.”
He said “not all Republican voters are comfortable discussing issues of race and sexual orientation. I wish it were different, but it is a reality those of us active in the Republican Party’s leadership confront, not infrequently,” he wrote.
“My discussion with Erika was an attempt to point out this unfortunate reality, [sic] it was in no way meant to be offensive,” Minor wrote. “I honestly left our meeting unaware that our conversation might have made Erika uncomfortable. My apologies to Erika if she was in any way offended.”
Minor, too, took aim at state Rep. Peter Breen, who blasted out an email to several Republicans on Thursday morning about the incident. Minor is accusing Breen of having previously tried to get him to drop out by offering a “government job.” He claimed Breen is trying to “destroy” his reputation.
Breen said Minor’s statement shows he isn’t denying the allegations: “He now shifts the blame to the victims of his vile actions for being ‘uncomfortable,’ with a half-hearted apology to Ms. Harold, ‘if she was in any way offended,’ Breen said. “But Minor should take ownership of his outrageous and offensive statements, apologize for making them, and return to private life away from any public involvement with the Republican Party.”
Breen denied he earlier offered Minor a job to get him to drop out of the race, saying he “wouldn’t willingly put a person like Burt Minor anywhere near my family, my volunteers or any of the residents of my district.”
Breen, R-Lombard, sent the email to Republicans he believed were endorsing Minor in the race for the 42nd District House seat that is being vacated by Ives, as she challenges Rauner in the March 20 primary.
“Mr. Minor’s boorish behavior is beyond the pale on both fronts,” Breen wrote. “I would respectfully contend to you that a person willing to engage in this sort of speech — the casual use of vile racial epithets — and line of inquiry — asking unmarried women highly personal questions about their sexual orientation — is not fit to serve in the House Republican Caucus. And I am certain that my fellow caucus members agree.”
Rauner, Ives and Durkin are all calling on Minor to drop out of the race. Rauner, in a statement, called his comments “racist and demeaning language” that has “no place in the GOP or our society.”
“Mr. Minor’s alleged comments are inexcusable, indefensible and disqualifying,” Ives said in a statement.
Breen said he had heard “rumors” about an inappropriate conversation, and opted to meet with Minor himself.
“At that meeting I confronted him with the rumor, and he confirmed that he had asked Ms. Harold if she was a lesbian and he confirmed that he had used the n-word,” Breen said.
Breen said Minor told him he asked about Harold’s sexual orientation “so that she could get it on the record that she was straight.”
Breen said the comments show Minor “is not fit to stand for the Republican nomination in the General Assembly,” saying “every effort” is being made to get him to leave the race.
Breen said Minor had listed Durkin as someone who had endorsed him, which Durkin has denied. In a statement, Durkin called Minor’s statements “offensive and beyond unacceptable.”
“I call on him to withdraw from the race immediately,” Durkin said.