Democratic lawmakers in the Illinois House on Monday released portions of a recording of a Republican state representative's fundraising call in which the legislator can be heard making disparaging comments about her opponent and the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus.
Reps. Will Davis, Greg Harris and Emanuel "Chris" Welch played three clips of the call in which they said Rep. Amy Grant, who represents the west suburban 42nd District, can be heard making a fundraising pitch to a potential donor.
Grant, of Wheaton, is running for a second term in the DuPage County district against Democratic challenger Ken Mejia-Beal. Davis said Grant contacted the person who recorded the exchange as part of her fundraising effort, noting that she did not know him personally but was seeking to raise money for her reelection campaign.
"And he's, he's just far to the left," Grant said of Mejia-Beal in one clip of the recording. "I mean, he's just another one of the Cook County people. That's all you're gonna vote for is the Cook County, another, you know, Black Caucus - that's all we need is another person on the Black Caucus."
Grant can then be heard saying Davis - who is Black and is one of the three lawmakers who held the news conference Monday - is "a buddy of mine and he's in leadership and I made a friend of his and he respects me."
In another portion of the call that Democrats played, Grant said she thought Mejia-Beal was "afraid to come into the district actually, into the heart of the district anyhow."
When the person on the other end of the line asked why, she can be heard responding, "I think that maybe he is afraid of the reaction that people might give him."
"Not because he's Black but because of the way he talks," Grant continued. "He's all LGBTQ, he wants to work for the chronically ill, he just gives a crazy - and every week it's a different reason why he wants to get into the race."
Grant posted a statement to her campaign's Facebook page Monday morning that reads, "I deeply regret the comments I made about Ken Mejia-Beal, and reached out to apologize to him this morning. These comments do not reflect my heart or my faith."
Mejia-Beal issued a statement Monday afternoon that reads, in part, "in her hurtful, degrading, and wholly unacceptable comments which have now come to light, Rep. Grant makes it clear that she sees only the color of my skin and my sexual orientation – and that in her mind disqualifies me as a leader and even disqualifies me as a member of our community."
"Nowhere in Rep. Grant’s one-line public response or the phone message she left me reading that same message is any acknowledgement that the statements she made so matter-of-factly on those recordings were also a grievous insult to every member of our community," Mejia-Beal said. "Where is Representative Grant’s apology to those who hear her comments and wonder if they fit into her vision of our community? Where is the apology to all whose faith calls them to love their neighbors as themselves?"
Davis also played a portion of the call in which both a recording disclosure and Grant's acknowledgment of the recording can be heard, as he emphasized that she knew the call was being recorded. He said lawmakers would not release the name of the person who recorded the call or play the call in its entirety because it contained further identifying information.
"Rep. Grant had no relationship with this individual and no expectation of a right to privacy," Davis said during the news conference. "The release of this recording is in the public interest because the public should be made aware of the character and bias of persons representing them in the General Assembly and frankly, members of the General Assembly should know how their colleague views them as well."
Welch, who is Black, said he was "appalled" by the language used, calling it a "punch in the gut."
"At a time when racial tensions are at an all-time high in this country, at a time when gay, lesbian and transgender people are being unjustly attacked in the streets of this country because of their sexual orientation, we have a sitting state representative using a racist and homophobic pitch to raise money to help her get elected," he said. "Rep. Amy Grant was comfortable saying racist and homophobic things when she knew she was being recorded. What is she saying to donors and constituents when she's not being recorded?"
Welch said that in Springfield, he would walk Grant to her car on occasion, saying now he wondered, "What was she really thinking of me as a Black man?"
When asked if the lawmakers thought Grant should resign over the comments, Davis demurred.
"Obviously there can be a conversation about that," he said, but noted, "maybe that's more a question for her constituents.