'Miss America' comment seen as belittling, sexist
State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, who says he will run for attorney general in 2018, on Wednesday apologized for how he referred to Republican candidate Erika Harold when discussing the office.
"I've seen the reaction to the comment that I made, and I don't blame anybody for being offended," Raoul told The State Journal-Register.
"If I read them without the full context of our full conversation, I would have the same reaction. ... I take full responsibility for the bad characterization."
Raoul told the newspaper on Friday, after Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced she would not seek another term, that "I think Lisa would have acquitted herself well against Miss America. I don't know what's behind the attorney general's decision ... but I doubt seriously it was any fear of Erika Harold."
Harold, of Urbana, was the 2003 Miss America, and is also a graduate of Harvard Law School, and now practices law.
The story yielded a statement from state Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, calling Raoul's statement "blatant and belittling sexism."
"As a cadet at West Point and a woman in the political arena, I have spent much of my career fighting the dismissive, condescending sexism Senator Raoul so brazenly exhibited in his attempt to frame Ms. Harold as 'just a pretty face,'" Ives said.
"I do apologize, first off to Erika Harold, because ... I don't think it's a small accomplishment to be Miss America," Raoul said Wednesday. "In addition, her academic credentials are exceptional."
He said the point he was making in the full conversation last week was that he didn't think Madigan was scared out of the race.
"I think my record and people who know me demonstrates that I'm not a sexist," Raoul said. "But I do apologize, first off to Erika Harold and to anybody else who took my comments to be intended to be demeaning to Miss Harold."
Raoul, who [favors abortion rights], also said he has backed issues important to women.
"My record on equal pay for women and my record with regards to a woman's right to make her own comprehensive health care decisions is clear," he said.
Harold issued a statement Wednesday saying, "I appreciate Senator Raoul's apology and accept it. I've been underestimated before, and it just motivates me to work harder."
Harold, meanwhile, released a list of 45 state lawmakers, including Ives, who endorse her candidacy for attorney general.
Sen. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, said in a statement that when she met Harold several years ago, she was "impressed by her warmth and sincerity. She is an incredibly determined and intelligent person who wants to use her skills to serve the citizens as the state's top lawyer. She will work fiercely for consumers, crime victims and very importantly against public corruption."
Raoul issued a video Wednesday with the announcement of his 2018 candidacy.