In a full page advert published in the Dallas Morning News earlier this month, the city trumpeted its belief in “every person’s right to vote” and “protecting reproductive rights”, telling businesses and workers to “come to Chicago”.
On Wednesday, Illinois governor JB Pritzker followed up with letters to the chief executives of Texan companies such as Dell, Oracle, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, asking them to move their headquarters to a state that “ensures women succeed”.
The PR offensive turns the tables on Texas Republicans’ long history of trying to poach businesses away from Democratic states with promises of low taxes and light regulation.
In 2013, then governor Rick Perry bought adverts on four Chicago radio stations and wrote an open letter describing Illinois’s economy as “a burning building on the verge of collapse”.
Chicago’s adverts take aim at new Texas laws that ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy and drastically narrow access to voting, as well as the state government’s antipathy to Covid-19 restrictions.
They read: “In Chicago, we believe in every person’s right to vote, protecting reproductive rights, [and] science to fight Covid-19. If you want to build or expand your company or are looking to build your career, come to Chicago.”
Mr Pritzker’s letters are more pointed, with one example published by Politico accusing “radical legislators in Texas” of “functionally eradicating the autonomy of half the state”.
He wrote: “I’ve spent decades in business, and no matter the company or industry ... you can’t build success with a team that doesn’t want to be there.
“Your company is at a crossroads: you can go where the country is going, or you can stay in a state that strips its residents of their dignity. If I’m a bright and ambitious mind deciding where to plant my career, my family, my life – the choice is clear.”
He also took a swipe at Texas’s ailing energy grid, whose dramatic failure this February under the weight of winter storms is estimated to have killed between 210 and 702 people.
Texas is facing a federal lawsuit and a nationwide backlash over its new abortion laws, which women’s rights groups have described as a “back-door ban” on the treatment.
Around 60 per cent of abortions in Texas happen after six weeks of pregnancy, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and many people do not even realise they are pregnant before that point.
The state’s Republican-controlled legislature has also passed sweeping restrictions on the right to vote, including new limits on postal voting, bans on overnight and early voting, and greater powers for partisan poll watchers.
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