When a suburban state lawmaker stepped down this summer, disgraced by a nude photo controversy, the Republican officials responsible for replacing him in the House and on the ballot began taking applications. The election is Nov. 6. Clock, ticking.
You might assume they would select someone safe — a principled, vetted Republican without baggage. The incumbent was Rep. Nick Sauer, who resigned Aug. 2 after an ex-girlfriend accused him of posting unauthorized pictures of her naked on an Instagram account. Chicago police and the Lake County state’s attorney are investigating.
That was a mess. Move beyond it? Not exactly. Judicious is not how they roll in Lake County.
Mark Shaw, Lake County GOP chairman and co-chair of the Illinois Republican Party, and Chris Geissler, Barrington Township GOP committeeman, interviewed nine candidates to replace Sauer, according to Shaw. They selected Helene Miller Walsh. She is now the representative of the 51st District and faces Democrat Mary Edly-Allen on the ballot.
Miller Walsh of Mundelein is the wife of conservative WIND AM-560 evening radio host Joe Walsh. Her spouse is worth mentioning because her job involves handling his business dealings and engagements.
Joe Walsh is a red-meat deliveryman who got suspended a few years ago for using the N-word repeatedly on air. The context was a discussion about sports teams, including the Redskins, who were under pressure to change their names. He also faced criticism two years ago for a tweet that included the threat “Watch out Obama” following the Dallas shooting of five police officers. Let’s just assert that Walsh is a predictable provocateur.
So when Lake County Republicans announced that his wife secured the seat appointment, it took Democrats about five minutes on her Facebook page to find a series of strongly worded posts too — not the N-word but charged posts on Muslims, immigration and Chicago violence, to name a few.
Before I get to the Facebook posts, a footnote: I occasionally guest host on WIND’s morning show when a regular host is on vacation. I am familiar with the “nut job” characterization of conservatives and especially those in talk radio. In a liberal Democrat-dominated city, calling me a “nut job” is among my critics’ gentler appraisals.
But I can also tell you this: The Walshes do not represent the vast majority of conservatives, Republicans, independents or conservative Republican independents. For Miller Walsh to publicly post her small-minded, bombastic views on Facebook — and be appointed to public office in spite of them — is indefensible.
Don’t take my word. Take hers. She quickly scrubbed her Facebook page of the offensive posts within hours of her appointment, after Democrats pounced.
A post of her husband’s, formerly on her page, had supported President Donald Trump’s characterization of Haiti as a “shithole.”
“Haiti is a shithole and it’s run by blacks,” Joe Walsh wrote and she shared. “The violence in Chicago is all black on black. Those aren’t racist statements. They’re just facts.”
On Chicago violence, Miller Walsh in 2016 wrote, “I am sorry to say this but They (sic) can’t kill each other fast enough on the south and southwest sides of Chicago. Cops or no cops it does not matter. SMH (shaking my head). Maybe there is nothing that anyone can do to stop this madness.”
On a story about Democratic U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison’s run for Minnesota attorney general, she wrote: “This is scary stuff. Muslims know that if they control the laws then they will forever restrict OUR Judea-Christian freedoms and encumber the masses.” Ellison is Muslim.
Miller Walsh also supported the Trump administration’s family separation policy at the border. “Illegals are breaking our laws. Don’t want to be separated from your kids … don’t break our laws,” she posted on her Facebook page.
Above an unverified story on her page that claimed Muslim migrants tried to rape a British tourist, she wrote, “This is Islam.”
Miller Walsh’s campaign did not respond to my questions about the Facebook posts. And I’m not including the worst of them in this column. But Shaw stood by her appointment. He described her as smart, savvy and representative of the district. “No, I’m not having second thoughts,” he said. He emphasized that social media posts can be taken out of context.
Even so, she must have realized that her posts were over the line or she wouldn’t have taken them down.
The broader point is this: Eight other applicants sought this appointment. I’m quite sure at least one of them encompassed conservative policy-driven viewpoints without the blowhard, fake news, fan-flaming garbage on her Facebook page. Yet she got the job anyway.
For its part, the Illinois Republican Party shifted questions about her appointment to the “local committee” that made the decision to choose her. That committee was made up of two people. One of them is Shaw, co-chairman of the state party.
No, this is not a hands-off moment for Illinois GOP leadership. This belongs to them. It’s going to be a fiasco.
Kristen McQueary is a member of the Tribune Editorial Board. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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August 27, 2018 at 06:21PM