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Bernard Schoenburg

Lottery board chairman quits over his East St. Louis tweet

The chairman of the Illinois Lottery Control Board has apologized and resigned his post for using a disparaging term on Twitter to refer to East St. Louis, a spokeswoman for Gov. Bruce Rauner said last week.

Blair Garber’s resignation came a day after The State Journal-Register reported that the Evanston resident, who is a member of the Republican State Central Committee and was named to the lottery board in 2016 by Rauner, called the southern Illinois city the “s---hole of the universe!”

“Mr. Garber has apologized for his comments and is resigning from the Illinois Lottery Control Board effective immediately,” Rachel Bold, a spokeswoman for the governor, said Wednesday.

Before Bold’s statement, several lawmakers demanded that Garber resign or be fired.

State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, tweeted last Tuesday that Rauner should relieve Garber of his duties before delivering his State of the State address the next dat. Garber’s resignation was announced shortly before the speech began.

Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, said Rauner “should immediately fire” Garber, and should “immediately apologize to the citizens of East St. Louis and all Illinois citizens for the disgusting comments made by his political appointee.”

State Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, who is challenging Rauner in the March 20 Republican primary for governor, said Rauner should immediately remove Garber from the board.

“Those kinds of statements from a person in a position of service to the state of Illinois cannot be tolerated,” Ives said in a statement.

State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for attorney general, also called on Garber to resign. And state Sen. James Clayborne Jr., D-Belleville, who represents East St. Louis, said in a statement reported by Capitol Fax that Rauner should ask for Garber’s resignation.

“If the governor does not ask for Mr. Garber’s resignation, then I think it is obvious how the governor feels about places like East St. Louis,” Clayborne said.

Clayborne said such comments “disparage the legacies and accomplishments” of people who have called East St. Louis home including late jazz great Miles Davis, former United Nations Ambassador Donald McHenry, Olympic gold medalists Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Al Joyner, and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois.

Garber’s tweet in question came in a reply to a tweet posted by country music star Charlie Daniels, who was commenting on Durbin’s reaction to President Donald Trump reportedly using the word “s---hole” to describe African nations.

“Mr Durbin I’m so sorry that your virgin ears were blistered by the absolutely horrible language president Trump used in front of you,” Daniels tweeted on Jan. 16. “The president actually thought he was addressing a meeting of members of congress, not a kindergarten class hope you didn’t wet your pants too.”

Early on Jan. 17, Garber responded to Daniels’ tweet with: “Charlie, Durbin’s home town is (get this) east St. Louis illinois! The s---hole of the universe! Just do a google search.”

Durbin has been a resident of Springfield for decades, but his hometown is East St. Louis.

Garber has not responded to messages sent via Facebook.

The Lottery Control Board advises the lottery superintendent regarding operations, conducts hearings concerning complaints or violations and establishes advertising policy. Garber was appointed to the board in May 2016 by Rauner, and the Senate confirmed the appointment unanimously that month. The post pays $100 per meeting, not to exceed $1,200 a year, but Garber waived the stipend, so got no compensation for the job, a lottery spokesman said.

Garber also represents the 9th Congressional District on the GOP State Central Committee. That district includes Rauner’s Winnetka home.

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