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Local

Oberweis' sarcasm – 'your token white male' – falls flat

Email seeking support spurs race, gender flap

State Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, apologized for a sarcastic email seeking support as a 'token white male'
State Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, apologized for a sarcastic email seeking support as a 'token white male'

SUGAR GROVE – State Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, apologized for an email seeking support for himself as “your token white male candidate” to run against U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville, in 2020.

The May 22 letter was sent to Ellen Nottke of Batavia Township, who provided a copy to the Kane County Chronicle after it became public on Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter covering Illinois politics. Nottke has been involved in Kane County politics for 30 years.

“I need your help,” Oberweis’ email states. “I beat Durban in every county in the 14th district in 2014. If I can beat Durban, I will beat Underwood. I have raised over $200,000 already and I have personally matched that. It looks like we may have an African-American female (Peggy Hubbard) against white male Durban. Dems may have an older white male (Joe Biden) at the top of their ticket. We may have a Hispanic female in the 6th. I expect to have a female candidate replacing me. So, can I be your token white male candidate?”

In the email, Oberweis misspelled the last name of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin.

In her email response, Nottke wrote: “Really this is about race?? This is so inappropriate and exactly why I am fed up with the Republican Party. Jim please remove me from any future emails, mailing, etc.”

“It was an unprovoked email,” Nottke said. “I didn’t ask him to send me that. I did not say anything to him that would elicit that response.”

For his part, Oberweis apologized, acknowledging that his email was more foot-in-mouth than tongue-in-cheek.

“It was probably not my finest choice of words. … I was being sarcastic on gender,” Oberweis said. “She was looking only for a female candidate who could raise funds. … This was a private email from me to one person. I’m disappointed she decided to spread it around.”

In his prepared response to the publishing of the email, Oberweis said, “The copy of the email is a personal communication that referenced a larger discussion regarding the desirability of supporting female candidates in the Republican primary. I responded to an individual who was part of this larger discussion by pointing out the gender and racial diversity of the likely GOP slate for 2020.

“As for my self-description as a ‘token white male,’ it was intended to be ironic given the traditional demographics of Republican Party candidates, but, in hindsight, was a less than optimal choice of words. I apologize.”

Nottke said she did not provide the email to Capitol Fax and only made it public to the Chronicle after that.

“I had nothing to do with it becoming public information, but he does not want to believe that,” Nottke said.

Nottke also denied involvement in the “larger discussion” Oberweis referred to, which was a social media post that since has been taken down.

“I would love to see that conversation because I don’t remember being part of that conversation,” Nottke said.

Oberweis said he has decided not to seek another term in the Illinois Senate in 2020 and has thrown his hat in the ring in the GOP primary to run against Underwood, who beat Randy Hultgren in 2018.

Underwood has declared her intent to seek re-election in 2020.

According to the Pew Research Center website, www.people-press.org, white voters continue to be more likely to affiliate or lean toward the Republican Party. But the share of women who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party has risen since 2015, while black, Hispanic and Asian voters remain overwhelmingly Democratic.

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