The ad from state Rep. Jeanne Ives, a Republican mounting a primary challenge to Gov. Bruce Rauner (R), is a mocking thank-you message to the governor, who has faced criticism from some conservatives who consider him too moderate on certain issues.
The one-minute segment opens with a shot of several smiling people. Among them is a man with a faint five o’clock shadow wearing a dress and carrying a purse. “Thank you for signing legislation that lets me use the girls’ bathroom,” the deep-voiced actor says.
Next comes a woman wearing one of the pink hats associated with the Women’s March. “Thank you for making all Illinois families pay for my abortions,” she says.
The video then cuts to a man clad in a black-hooded sweatshirt, his mouth covered by a red bandanna, an apparent nod to the masked anarchist protesters that have wreaked havoc at conservative events in the past year. “Thank you,” he mockingly tells the governor, “for opposing law enforcement and making Illinois a sanctuary state for illegal immigrant criminals.”
After that, a black woman in a teacher’s union T-shirt “thanks” Rauner for purportedly making the state “bail out Chicago teacher pensions.” The segment ends with a series of clips accusing the governor of “betraying” Republicans.
There are still nine months to go until the 2018 midterms, but the ad seemed to signal some of the nastiness that could be in store as campaigns around the country heat up and Election Day approaches.
When the video was first published Friday by the Illinois political blog Capitol Fax, some Ives supporters suggested that it was a fabrication, as Politico reported. One Capitol Fax reader commented that the ad “only makes sense in a world where” the governor and one of Ives’s strategists “are false-flagging to make Rauner more electable in the general.”
A chorus of politicians and advocacy groups promptly issued denunciations. Tim Schneider, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, called on Ives to pull the segment, saying it was 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 Saturday. “Rep. Ives’ campaign ad does not reflect who we are as the Party of Lincoln and as proud residents of our great and diverse state.”
Pat Brady, a former state GOP chairman, added on Twitter: “There is no room in the Republican Party for racist, bigoted, homophobic candidates like her.”
Despite the outcry, Ives’s campaign stood by the ad, contending that it was a “fair and accurate representation of the implications” of the governor’s policy choices.
“Rauner betrayed Illinois conservatives. He and his paid-for mouthpieces don’t like his betrayals being illustrated and his radical left-wing social agenda being exposed,” Ives campaign spokeswoman Kathleen Murphy told the Associated Press. “Rauner is the one who owes Illinois families in general and conservatives in particular an apology.”
Some Illinois conservatives also defended Ives and the ad, as Politico reported. “In an age of ambiguity in politics, it’s a clear, unambiguous message about what Rauner stands for,” John McGlasson, a member of the Republican Party’s state central committee, said in a statement through the Ives campaign. “Everything in the video is correct.”
Ives will face Rauner in the March 20 primary. She’s trailing the governor by more than 40 percentage points, according to a poll We Ask America conducted in mid-January. About 65 percent of respondents said they would vote for Rauner in the GOP primary, while about 21 percent said they would vote for Ives. Fifteen percent were undecided, according to the poll.
Ives, a three-term lawmaker from Wheaton, began her gubernatorial bid after Rauner angered conservatives by signing legislation allowing taxpayer-funded abortions for people on Medicaid and state employee health plans, as the Associated Press reported.
Hard-line social conservatives were also rankled when Rauner approved a measure permitting transgender people to change the sex listed on their birth certificate with the authorization of a medical professional, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The assertions about law enforcement and illegal immigrants in Ives’s ad were a reference to legislation Rauner signed into law last year that barred law enforcement officers from detaining people solely on the basis of their immigration status. The Tribune noted that major law enforcement groups supported the measure.
State officials and advocacy groups on the left also sounded off on Ives’s ad over the weekend.
“While Bruce Rauner needs to be defeated in this election, this type of hate has no place in our politics,” Galia Slayen, a spokeswoman for Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, said in a statement to the State Journal-Register. “As governor, J.B. will defend our communities from forces of hate and ensure Illinois remains a welcome state to all.”
Brian C. Johnson, chief executive of Equality Illinois, added: “We need a governor who will stand up for all Illinoisans, not someone who will target transgender Illinoisans for her personal political benefit.”
The ad wasn’t the only controversy to hit the Ives campaign over the weekend. On Sunday, the campaign’s Twitter account retweeted a supportive message from a man whose account contained anti-Semitic posts. The man said he donated $1,000 Ives’s primary bid. The campaign deleted the retweet and vowed to give any money back, saying, “We repudiate him.”