Pressure is mounting for Winfield Township Republican Chairman Burt Minor to withdraw from the GOP primary for the 42nd Illinois House because of allegations he used a racial slur during a fall meeting with Republican attorney general candidate Erika Harold and asked her about her sexual orientation.
Harold and Republican state Rep. Peter Breen said the comments came during an Oct. 12 meeting in Carol Stream when Harold, 37, was meeting with local Republicans individually to introduce herself and explain her campaign. Harold said she and a campaign staffer met with Minor for about an hour, during which Minor asked the following questions: "Do you have any children?" "Are you married?" and "Have you ever been married?"
When Harold responded no to all those questions, Minor asked if she was a lesbian, Harold said.
"I was shocked," Harold said. "I told him I was not, but I made it clear that someone's sexual orientation should not be used to disqualify them from seeking public office."
"He asked it in a very matter-of-fact way. It was jarring," Harold said. "I wanted to be very clear with him that's not appropriate."
She said Minor never apologized and then said the N-word while asking whether it was appropriate to use the offensive slang, Harold said.
In a written statement Thursday evening, Minor, 58, said that "not all Republican voters are comfortable discussing issues of race and sexual orientation" and his discussion "was an attempt to point out this unfortunate reality." Minor said he "honestly left our meeting unaware that our conversation might have made Erika uncomfortable."
"My apologies to Erika if she was in any way offended," he wrote.
Harold said she told Minor during their meeting that she was offended.
"I haven't heard anyone use that full word in a long time. I said it's absolutely inappropriate to use that word," Harold said. "He used it again and repeated it three or four times. I can't fathom why he used the word and used it repeatedly, and he did not acknowledge that it was inappropriate to do so."
Breen is emailing party members asking them to withdraw support for Minor in the GOP primary because of the comments Breen calls "outrageous." Breen, the Republican House floor leader who lives in Lombard and represents the 48th District, said he met with Minor to discuss the situation and that Minor told him that Harold "wanted him to ask the question" about her sexual identity. Breen also said Minor told him Harold wanted him to use the N-word.
"That's absurd," Harold says. She said she told several local Republican officials about the offensive comments after their meeting but said Minor wasn't a candidate at the time.
Minor said Breen, who supports DuPage County Board member Amy Grant in the primary for the 42nd District, has a political motive for "attempting to capitalize on this misunderstanding." Minor has refused Breen's request to drop out of the race, Breen said.
"He (Minor) can pull himself out of the race, or the people of the 42nd District can make sure he is not the candidate," Breen said. Grant, 62, of Wheaton, and 29-year-old political newcomer Ryan Byrne of Wheaton are running against Minor, a former Warrenville alderman and retired Air Force officer.
The three are vying to replace incumbent Jeanne Ives, who withdrew to run against Gov. Bruce Rauner in the GOP primary.
Rauner's campaign told POLITICO that Minor's "racist and demeaning language has no place in the GOP of our society" and that Minor should drop out of the race.
"I think he should withdraw from the race," said Harold, of Urbana, noting she recently ran into Minor at a political event and told Minor "absolutely not" when he asked to pose for a photograph with her.
"I would respectfully contend to you that a person willing to engage in this sort of speech -- the casual use of vile racial epithets -- and line of inquiry -- asking unmarried women highly personal questions about their sexual orientation -- is not fit to serve in the House Republican Caucus," Breen concluded in his email to Republican voters.
Byrne also called for his opponent to drop out and said Minor should resign from his position as Winfield Township Republican chairman.