Jeanne Ives surprised by ‘hysteria’ around controversial commercial

State Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, accused Gov. Bruce Rauner of serving the interests of Chicago above suburban and downstate Illinoisans at a Feb. 5 City Club of Chicago speech. 

By Eric Bradach

Three days after Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeanne Ives’ campaign posted a commercial online that drew accusations of bigotry, the Wheaton, Illinois, state representative showed no signs of regret in her latest public appearance.

“The commercial does not attack people, it tackles issues by truthfully illustrating the constituencies [Gov. Bruce] Rauner has chosen to serve to the exclusion of others,” Ives told a Feb. 5 City Club of Chicago crowd.

The commercial titled “Thank you, Bruce Rauner,” depicts multiple characters who criticize Rauner, including a young woman wearing a pink-protest hat thanking the governor for making Illinois families “pay for my abortions.” It has a man wearing a hoodie with his face partially hidden by a bandana thanking Rauner for making Illinois “a sanctuary state for illegal immigrant criminals.” There is also a transgender man thanking the governor for “signing legislation for letting me use the girls bathroom.” 

Shortly after it was released, a wave of criticism cascaded throughout social media.

“Planned Parenthood of Illinois is here for anyone, no matter what. The bills mentioned in this ad move Illinois forward to protect Illinoian’s basic human rights—whether it’s the right to access health care or use the bathroom that suits their gender identity,” the organization posted in a Feb. 2 tweet. In a time when everyone’s rights are under attack we are fighting to make sure Illinois remains a safe place for everyone, no matter who they love, how they identify, where they work, or how they get their insurance.”

The one-minute commercial also received criticism from her own party.

“This is the @JeanneIves and @DanProft we have known for years,” Republican political strategist Pat Brady said in a Feb. 2 tweet. “There is no room in the Republican Party for racist, bigoted, homophobic candidates like her. We are better than @JeanneIves.”

But Ives did not apologize for the ad, and instead accused the Republican governor of serving the interests of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Public Schools and the LGBTQ community at the expense of the conservative voters who elected him.

“I’m sorry. But as parents of a daughter in elementary school, my husband Paul and I are not on board with this,” Ives 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.”

At the City Club of Chicago speech, hosted by Maggiano’s Banquets, 111 W. Grand Ave., Ives promoted herself as the social-conservative choice for Illinois Republicans. While addressing the crowd, however, Ives did not touch upon much of the commercial that angered many liberal activists but instead focused her speech on her campaign policies to lower property taxes, decrease state-government spending and crack down on political corruption. These factors have decimated Illinois, Ives said, which has caused its population to leave in droves.

“In the early 1990s, my husband decided to exit the Army and began to look for a job. He found that opportunity in Illinois. My brother Dominic moved to Illinois for a job, and so did my brother Paul, and so did my brother Matt,” Ives said. “We found job opportunities in Illinois in the early 1990s, grew our families and invested in our communities and now watch as our older children find opportunities elsewhere.”

Ives accused “politics” as the culprit for results of two Gallup polls, which said 50 percent of Illinoisans want to move elsewhere and 25 percent have confidence in the state.

“People are being driven out of our state they don’t otherwise want to leave because our politics make it unaffordable and undesirable to remain,” Ives said. “It’s so bad, even the politicians are leaving. We’ve had some 30 retirements from the General Assembly this year. They’ve given up. But I haven’t.”

Ives said she understands policy far better than Rauner and would be able to work with lawmakers on the other side of the aisle. Democrats are not under mind control of House Speaker Michael Madigan, she added, and are fully aware of Illinois’ economic problems and want a governor who they can work with.

While Madigan, who has been the state’s speaker of the house for all but two years since 1983, is powerful, Ives said Republicans have not effectively promoted their fiscal policy solutions.

“We must take our case to the people,” Ives said. “I am doing that, I want to do that, and as governor, I will continue to do that.”

In an effort to address the state’s fiscal problems, Ives said Illinois should sell the James R. Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph St., and move its state headquarters to southern-suburban Cook County.

Illinois public schools rely too much on property taxes, Ives said. The state should focus on school consolidation, creating one school district per county, which would cut the number of school districts in half, “cut out the bureaucrats and put more resources in the classroom,” she added.

Ives also called for state-employee pension reform. She proposed the optional state-run 401K system for all-new employees and make all school districts required by law unable to skip pension payments.

However, Ives is not in favor of one proposed fiscal solution for Illinois that is popular among Democratic gubernatorial candidates, recreational marijuana. She said it is an “outrageous” and “frightening” policy that would increase teen-drug use, homelessness and emergency room visits.

Speaking with reporters after her speech, Ives called the commercial a parody of Rauner’s “Thank you, Mike Madigan” ads, which showed governors from bordering states thanking the speaker for his policies and driving businesses and residents out of Illinois in favor of their states.

“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.”