Incendiary ad fuels primary challenge to Illinois governor
CHICAGO — The Illinois Republican whose “repulsive” campaign ad caused an uproar in the governor’s race this weekend remains defiant and unapologetic about the spot.
“Well, do I have everybody’s attention now?” state Rep. Jeanne Ives said Monday, as she began her address to the City Club of Chicago.
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In less than a week, Ives has heightened her profile from little-known primary challenger to Gov. Bruce Rauner to talk of the state, a Twitter-trending phenomenon whose lightning-rod ad — criticized by one Democratic candidate for governor as “repulsive” — has grabbed national headlines.
Despite pressure from within her own party to take down the ad — which has been ripped as “racist,” “transphobic” and anti-immigrant — Ives has refused to back down, even admitting she’s taking advantage of what little time she has before the March 20 primary to drive up her name recognition.
Positive performances before editorial boards, she mused, would not cut it against Rauner, who has $50 million in his campaign account.
“I want to know why people are so offended by it. What’s so offensive about the ad?” Ives said in her speech. “The ad is a policy ad. It’s an accurate depiction of the policies that Rauner put in place.”
When an audience member called out at Ives that it wasn’t an accurate depiction of a transgender individual in the spot, she had a ready answer.
“Sir, with all due respect, I know,” Ives said. “I’ve had them show up at my door.”
Between the wall-to-wall publicity surrounding the ad, a new $2 million fundraising boost from conservative donor Dick Uihlein — the biggest donor behind unsuccessful Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore — and a strong performance at a debate before the Chicago Tribune editorial board last week, Ives is laying bare a question that until now was only whispered about among Illinois Republicans: could the embattled governor be toppled by the conservative base even before he gets to the general election?
The injection of cash from Uihlein — which came on top of an earlier $500,000 donation — and Ives’ military background as a West Point grad, a former Army officer and mother of five has piqued curiosity about her candidacy.
“For most people, they’re very impressed by it. I’m honored to have gone there, you don’t come out of that place unchanged,” Ives told POLITICO in a recent interview. “Truthfully, it’s the classic military style break you down, bring you back up. Going through that type of training makes you tenacious, principled and relentless in pursuing your goals. You gotta think through everything that you do there.”
There’s no question that Rauner has infuriated a segment of his own party. He’s refused to even say Donald Trump’s name, or whether he voted for the president. Ives said while she doesn’t agree with Trump on all issues, she voted for him and planted a Trump sign in her yard.
Known for taking hardline conservative positions both on economic and social issues since she was first elected to the legislature in 2012, Ives has a habit of speaking her mind. In a 2015 House floor debate, she drew ire from Democrats for her blunt remarks.
“I’m not interested in providing childcare to people where you don’t even know the paternity,” Ives said. “You better know who the daddy is and whether or not he can afford that child.”
Ives’ candidacy rose out of Rauner’s decision to sign into law a bill expanding public funding of abortion to Medicaid recipients and state workers. Rauner
signed it after promising a group of conservative lawmakers earlier in the year that he would veto the measure.
As a military veteran, Ives said, she wasn’t going to stand for Rauner going back on his word.
“I haven’t invested my time and my money, to have a Republican governor treat us like that and put in his wife’s social agenda ahead of ours,” Ives told POLITICO, referring to Rauner’s wife, Diana, a prominent supporter of abortion rights. “He lied to us … I’m not going to tolerate it. He made a statement to veto the bill, that’s when he sat down with us. I think there was 24 of us. He didn’t have to sign it.”
Rauner has countered that he wrestled with the decision but ultimately supports abortion rights and didn’t think it was fair to block access to women based on their income.
But Ives couldn’t be more opposed on the issue. In 2015, Ives penned a Chicago Tribune op-ed detailing her own complicated pregnancy, in which doctors urged her to abort the unborn child, saying it would not survive outside the womb. Instead, Ives gave birth, naming the child who died 45 minutes later.
“The healing did begin for our family, but I don’t believe it would have been complete had we chosen to take his life prematurely,” she wrote.
Rauner has also signed several other measures that inflamed the right. He backed a controversial immigration compromise bill that received the support of law enforcement but drew fire from conservatives, who called it a “sanctuary state bill.”
And the Republican governor also signed a bill allowing transgender individuals to change their gender on their birth certificates with the approval of a doctor; it does not address bathroom rights.
The cumulative anger generated by those bills, combined with Ives’ conservative views and policy wonkiness, has won her support among some grassroots Republican groups.
While it remains unclear whether Ives will pay a political price for her controversial ad, there is measurable uneasiness among at least some of her supporters.
“I do not like the Ives negative ad. Serious issues shouldn’t be satirized,” said state Rep. David McSweeney, among the most vocal Rauner opponents from his own party. “Nothing changes the fact that Bruce Rauner is a failed governor who brags that he’s not in charge.”
Illinois GOP Chairman Tim Schneider has called for Ives to pull down the ad while Rauner’s campaign has stood consistent on one theme: it’s further proof that Ives cannot win a general election in a blue state like Illinois.
Rauner contends his stances on social issues are moderate positions that give a Republican a shot at winning in Illinois, where Trump lost by nearly 1 million votes in 2016.
Ives is confident of her chances in November if she is the GOP nominee. “It’s honestly all about qualification and none of those guys are qualified,” Ives said of the Democratic field. “They flat-out don’t know what they’re doing. They don’t understand the policy solutions … I actually do.”
February 5, 2018 at 08:43PM