Congressional candidate says he'll leave GOP if elected, then pulls online prank
Days before sending a political provocateur to an online candidate interview as a prank, the Republican nominee for Illinois' 9th Congressional District seat pledged to ditch the party if he wins.
"The first thing I'm going to do when I'm in office is get rid of that Republican label (and) be an independent," Max Rice, a Chicagoan challenging Democratic incumbent Jan Schakowsky of Evanston, said during an Oct. 3 candidate forum. The online event was hosted by League of Women Voters groups and the Wilmette Public Library.
In the same forum, Rice also said he supports testing public officials for dementia, called politicians "a soulless bunch" and encouraged people to vote for Schakowsky after Nov. 25 -- more than two weeks after Election Day.
"Just kidding," he said after a long pause. "Don't call me a fraud."
Then, for a Daily Herald candidate interview held Friday on Zoom, Rice sent a stand-in who crudely insulted Schakowsky before being booted from the conversation.
The comments from Rice and his proxy got no immediate reactions from Schakowsky, who has represented the 9th District since 1999.
Schakowsky campaign manager Ben Head said the congresswoman "thinks Rice's behavior and comments speak for themselves."
Rice ran unopposed in the Republican primary this year. He previously sought the GOP nomination for the seat in 2018 when he lived in Northbrook, placing last in a four-way race.
Rice and Schakowsky answered questions about voting rights, health care and other issues for roughly 50 minutes during the forum. A video recording can be found online at bit.ly/3rw7k9U.
Rice called election security "a big concern." He said he supports requiring people to show ID before voting and complained about people who have two addresses trying to trick poll workers into letting them vote in the wrong precinct.
Schakowsky worried about the physical safety of poll workers and voters. Poll workers have complained about harassment in the past, but now "it's kind of a dangerous thing to do," she said.
When the conversation turned to immigration, Schakowsky called for comprehensive reform. She supported creating a pathway to citizenship for people who came to the U.S. illegally but have been here a long time "and have proved themselves worthy of being American citizens."
Rice accused Congress of "kicking the can" on immigration. He said better border security is needed, especially to stop drug cartels transporting fentanyl from Mexico.
As for abortion, Schakowsky slammed congressional Republicans who support federal restrictions as "out of touch" with Americans who want women to be able to control their own bodies and health care choices. She criticized Senate Republicans for voting to restrict access to birth control, too.
Rice said he supports giving women the ability to have legal abortions in some circumstances, such as if their lives are in danger. But he called the issue a distraction from the energy crisis and the potential for another world war, which he claimed could happen "in the next few weeks." He didn't say why he feels a global conflict is imminent.
The candidates also talked about bipartisanship in Congress. While Schakowsky noted she has ushered bills through the consumer protection and commerce subcommittee she chairs with support from both parties, Rice said he doesn't want to be bipartisan.
"I want to be nonpartisan," he said.
Redrawn and expanded ahead of this election, the 9th District includes parts of Cook, Lake and McHenry counties.
Election Day is Nov. 8.