Primary voters handed a narrow victory to an Illinois Republican candidate who blamed autism, dementia, and tornadoes on abortion and same-sex marriage.
The state’s Republican Party severed ties with Susanne Atanus in January after she made the controversial remarks in a newspaper interview, but Atanus ignored party leaders’ call for her withdrawal and will face incumbent Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky in the November election.
Her primary opponent, Republican David Earl Williams III, has called for a recount of the official results, which showed 12,447 votes for Atanus and 12,012 votes for him with all 338 precincts reporting in Cook County.
Williams posted a statement on his official Facebook page suggesting that Schakowsky, who is considered one of the most progressive members of the U.S. House of Representatives, had urged her supporters to cross party lines and vote for Atanus.
“What is wrong Jan, are you afraid of a real challenge?” Williams said. “It seems like our favorite Congresscritter can’t handle a true fighter on your side.”
Illinois uses a semi-closed primary system. Voters may select their party affiliation at the polling place by announcing it to an election judge.
The 30-year-old Williams carried his own liabilities, including a challenge to his nominating petition and a December domestic violence order filed against him by a former girlfriend who claims he tried to get her fired and kicked out of school by impersonating her online.
He’s currently fighting a judge’s order to attend anger management classes and undergo a mental health assessment.
Atanus won the primary race without the backing of the Illinois Republican Party, which withdrew its support and endorsement of her candidacy after the 55-year-old Niles resident shared her unconventional views in an interview with the Chicago Daily Herald.
“God is angry,” she told the Herald. “We are provoking him with abortions and same-sex marriage and civil unions. Same-sex activity is going to increase AIDS. If it’s in our military, it will weaken our military. We need to respect God.”
Atanus, who unsuccessfully ran in 2010 and 2012 for the 9th Congressional District’s Republican primary, also blamed tornadoes and very cold weather on God’s wrath over LGBT rights.
“God is super angry,” she said.
Even so, Atanus sought support from LGBT voters, saying that her economic policies would benefit everyone, whether they’re gay or straight.
“You can tell the community that I called to reach out to them, that I need them, and they need me,” Atanus said.
Watch the candidate outline some of her policies in this video posted online by Susanne Atanus:
Edit: Voters are permitted to declare their party affiliation at the polling place.