Democrats say Wheaton Republican lawmaker made disparaging remarks in phone call

  • Ken Mejia-Beal, left, and Amy Grant are candidates for the Illinois House 42 seat.

    Ken Mejia-Beal, left, and Amy Grant are candidates for the Illinois House 42 seat.

 
By RAYMON TRONCOSO
Capitol News Illinois
rtroncoso@capitolnewsillinois.com
Updated 9/22/2020 9:43 AM

Freshman state Rep. Amy Grant, a Wheaton Republican, apologized Monday after making comments in a recorded phone call referencing the race and sexual orientation of her opponent, Ken Mejia-Beal.

In a Monday virtual news conference, Democratic state Reps. Will Davis of Hazel Crest, Greg Harris of Chicago and Emanuel "Chris" Welch of Hillside presented three short recordings of Grant from a single phone call but said they would not release the full call.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In the call, Grant said Mejia-Beal, who is a gay, Black Democrat from Lisle, is afraid to travel to the heart of her district, "not because he's Black but because of the way he talks, he's all LGBTQ." In another clip Grant says Mejia-Beal is "just another one of the Cook County people ... Another Black Caucus."

Grant issued an apology in an email release shortly before the news conference began. She also apologized in a voicemail to Mejia-Beal.

"I deeply regret the comments I made about Ken Mejia-Beal, andáreached out to apologizeáto him this morning. These comments do not reflect my heart or my faith," Grant wrote.

The conversation was between Grant and an unnamed person. The details about who initiated the call are in dispute.

The Democratic lawmakers said Grant had originally called the person as part of her fundraising efforts and that was the subject of their call. The individual returned Grant's call and informed her the call was being recorded, according to the Democrats.

A spokesman for state House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, a Western Springs Republican, disputed their story. In an email Monday, the spokesman said Grant did not agree to be recorded and that the person had initiated contact with Grant claiming to be a potential donor and supporter of Republican U.S. House candidate Jeanne Ives, who previously held Grant's seat.

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The individual turned the full tape over to the Democratic caucus.

Illinois is a two-party consent state, meaning it is illegal to record a phone conversation with a "reasonable expectation of privacy" unless all parties involved are aware and consent to the call being recorded.

The longest of the clips was less than 40 seconds. Welch and Davis said they wouldn't release the full tape when asked by reporters and claimed that in the call Grant talked about others whose privacy would be violated if the full conversation was made public.

Davis said he was not sure when the call took place but that it was recorded recently.

The three Democrats demurred when asked if Grant should resign or suffer some sort of formal consequence in the House.

Grant specifically mentioned Davis in the phone call, calling him a "buddy of mine," and saying, "he respects me."

"I can be cordial and friends with any member of the General Assembly as long as it's a respectful relationship," Davis said. "She clearly has taken it in a different direction ... Her comments hit me personally, as an African American man, to say that we don't need any other members of the Black Caucus, does that mean we don't need any other thoughtful, intuitive representatives to come to Springfield regardless of who or what they are?"

The news conference used official state government resources, and while Davis and Welch both denied their event was political in nature, both referenced the upcoming election between Grant and Beal repeatedly.

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