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Rauner primary rival Ives won’t be silenced despite ‘hysteria’ over TV ad

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeanne Ives speaks at a City Club of Chicago luncheon Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. | Erin Brown/Sun-Times

Her TV commercial has been denounced on both sides of the aisle, but Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeanne Ives on Monday said she didn’t understand “why people are so offended” by a statewide ad that takes on women who get abortions, illegal immigration and the transgender community.

“I guess I’m a little bit surprised at some of the hysteria quite frankly because this was an issue-based policy ad. It was not an attack on any one individual,” Ives said. “It was simply a representation of, quite frankly, what I had been saying on the stump and what I have put out in my literature.”

The comments came during a City Club of Chicago luncheon in which the state representative from Wheaton focused mainly on her economic policies — saying she wants to protect pensions, enact a property tax cap and a cap on state spending tied to inflation and population growth.

But she also touched upon the controversial ad that was on the minds of many in attendance.

“Well, do I have everybody’s attention now? Ives said to laughter in beginning her speech. “Good.”

Ives — a social and fiscal conservative challenging Gov. Bruce Rauner in the March primary — unveiled two new ads on Friday. One features Ives and her family and touts her as the “conservative reform candidate.” It ran during very pricy Super Bowl airtime on Sunday.

An infusion of $2 million to her campaign from Lake Forest business magnate Richard Uihlein may keep those spots, and new ones, airing on repeat with less than seven weeks to go before the primary.

The more controversial spot, which has both 30-second and 60-second versions running in a media buy worth nearly $1 million, features actors playing a Chicago Teachers Union member, a Women’s March participant, a man railing against illegal immigrants and an apparent transgender person.

Ives’ campaign said the ad is intended to represent “Governor Rauner’s chosen constituents based on the policy choices he made.” It highlighted Rauner’s signing of a bill that expands taxpayer funding of abortions; a measure that allows transgender citizens to change their gender designation without going through gender reassignment or gender confirmation surgery; a measure that limits local cooperation with federal immigration authorities; an energy measure that included an Exelon bailout and an education bill that helped to pay Chicago teacher pensions.

“Thank you for legislation that lets me use the girls’ bathroom,” says an actor in a red dress. Ives’ campaign did not immediately answer questions about whether the actor is a transgender person when the ad was unveiled. But on Monday, Ives called it “accurate depiction.”

“That’s exactly what the typical transgender man looks like,” Ives said during a question-and-answer portion of the luncheon.

That prompted Dave Lundy, a Democratic adviser and friend to J.B. Pritzker, to yell out, “No, it’s not.”

Ives defended the depiction, however.

“With all due respect, look, I’ve had them show up at my door,” Ives said. “That is an accurate representation of what the policies look like on the ground.”

Ives was later asked by reporters about that comment. The lawmaker said she received a death threat after the Illinois House debated same-sex marriage in 2013.

“I had a death threat, and we went and had that prosecuted, and he ended up being convicted after three years and a lengthy discovery phase,” Ives said. “And during that phase, he had hired a transgender lawyer who came to my door, knocked on my door and my daughter answered the door. No problem. I have no problem with it. Whatever.”

Since Ives began running the ad, the Rauner-backed Illinois Republican Party and Republican attorney general candidate Erika Harold, among other Republicans, have denounced it.

Rauner, himself, on Monday called the ad “shameful” and one that doesn’t reflect the Republican party, during a meeting with the Daily Herald editorial board: “It’s shameful. Ugly, hateful, mean-spirited,” the governor said.

But Ives has a different take.

“I think it’s edgy. Absolutely. I want to know why people are so offended by it. What’s so offensive about the ad?” Ives asked. “The ad is a policy ad. That’s what it is. It’s an accurate depiction of the policies that Rauner put in place.”

Ives said the commercial is “generating the expected hysteria from the expected quarters.” She later told reporters it was intended to be a parody of a Rauner ad in which neighboring state governors facetiously thank Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan for sending businesses and residents their way.

During her 25-minute speech, the Wheaton lawmaker brought up news that a Staten Island elementary school canceled its father-daughter dance because the school didn’t comply with the Department of Education’s Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Student Guidelines. Ives said it was canceled “because it offended the trans-rights community.”

“I’m sorry. But as parents of a daughter in elementary school, my husband Paul and I are not on board with this,” she said to applause.” As Christians, we believe every person is made in God’s image and is deserving of dignity. I respect people who are different than me. I respect people who have different views than me. … They shouldn’t be silenced, but neither should I. And I won’t be.”