SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – An Illinois House Republican is under fire for comments she made on a recorded phone call with an alleged campaign donor. House Democrats call her statements racist and homophobic.
Rep. Amy Grant (R-Wheaton) is a freshman lawmaker up for reelection in November. Her opponent – Ken Mejia-Beal – is an openly gay Black man.
“He’s just another one of the Cook County people,” Grant said during the call. “That’s all you’re gonna vote for in Cook County, another, you know, Black Caucus. That’s all we need is another person in the Black Caucus.”
The Republican also says Mejia-Beal is “afraid” to come into the heart of their legislative district.
“Not because he’s Black, but because of the way he talks. He’s all LGBTQ. He wants to work for the chronically ill,” Grant added.
“Rep. Grant makes it real clear that, in her opinion, some people do not deserve to be a part of the community or to represent that community in the General Assembly,” said Rep. Will Davis (R-Homewood). “That, indeed, is appalling.”
Grant referred to Leader Davis as a close friend during the phone call. “I have to be suspect of her now, you know. Is she genuine when she speaks to me or towards me or says ‘Hey, let’s work together on something?’ Is she being genuine?”
Grant’s message also hurt House Majority Leader Greg Harris (D-Chicago) – a champion for LGBTQ rights.
“I always hope that we’re better than this. But, these days I guess we’re finding now it’s okay to say out loud the things people use to just whisper in the shadows,” Harris said. “But maybe that’s good because maybe we find out now who people really are.”
The DuPage County native released an apology on her campaign Facebook page shortly before Democrats released parts of the recorded call.
“I deeply regret the comments I made about Ken Mejia-Beal, and reached out to apologize to him this morning,” Grant stated. “These comments do not reflect my heart or my faith.”
Her opponent found the apology insincere.
“Representative Grant makes it clear that she sees only the color of my skin and my sexual orientation,” Mejia-Beal stated. “And that, in her mind, disqualifies me as a leader and even disqualifies me as a member of our community.”
Mejia-Beal acknowledged Grant called to leave a message, but he claims she read the same exact statement released Monday morning.
“Where is Representative Grant’s apology to those who hear her comments and wonder if they fit into her vision of our community,” he asked. “Where is the apology to all whose faith calls them to love their neighbors as themselves?”
Release the tapes?
Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch says Grant was “comfortable” making the statements, as she knew she was recorded. Welch noted members of the Black and LGBT caucuses make up a large group in the General Assembly.
“How can anyone work with someone like Amy Grant,” Welch asked. “In my opinion, such views do not make someone a productive member of the General Assembly. We all have to question that behavior.”
House Republican Spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis says the caucus does not support Grant’s statements. However, they want Democrats to release the full tapes in order to hear the entire conversation.
When asked about that possibility, Welch said it wasn’t right.
“I personally think it contains identifying information. She talks about other people, is disparaging of other people, and I just don’t think it’s our place to reveal the entire call. I don’t think the entire call helps her case one lick,” Welch added. “I think it hurts it even further. But, we’re being sensitive to other people who were identified in the call.”