Erika Harold won the Republican primary for Illinois attorney general Tuesday, the Associated Press projected, surviving a major controversy to hold on to her status as frontrunner in the race.
Harold captured 59 percent of the vote with 66 percent of precincts reporting statewide by 9:13 p.m., defeating DuPage County Board member and former Burr Ridge mayor Gary Grasso.
Harold announced her candidacy for the GOP nomination even before outgoing Attorney General Lisa Madigan revealed that she would not seek a fifth term in office.
A Harvard-educated former Miss America who unsuccessfully ran for Congress downstate in 2013, Harold earned the party establishment’s support and financial backing – including a $350,000 contribution to her campaign from Gov. Bruce Rauner.
But less than two weeks before Election Day, her one-time view on same-sex marriage and gay couples adopting children surfaced, nearly throwing a wrench in what would otherwise appeared to be a clear path to victory.
While competing for Miss Illinois in 2000, three sources told NBC 5 that Harold was asked in a behind-the-scenes interview about same-sex adoption.
One of the questions to 19-year-old Harold that year was: If she, like her social worker mother, was responsible to place a child in foster care and had to choose between a.) A loving gay couple or b.) A heterosexual couple who were known child abusers, which would she chose?
All three sources told NBC 5 she chose the child abusers.
Harold’s campaign said in a statement that she did “not recall the alleged exchange,” which was also chronicled in a 2014 book titled “Being Miss America,” but that she “certainly support[s] same-sex adoption and foster care placement.”
Still, that revelation sparked condemnation from elected officials and advocacy groups on both sides of the aisle.
Grasso called on Harold to resign, saying in a statement that he was “sickened by the idea of placing any child in danger, especially in the home of known child abusers.”
Harold disregarded calls to step aside, and Republican voters chose to nominate her to take on the Democratic nominee – one of eight candidates – for the state’s chief legal officer in the general election come November.