Rep. Vicky Hartzler issues Lia Thomas warning with Missouri Senate ad on women’s sports

Rep. Vicky Hartzler issues Lia Thomas warning with Missouri Senate ad on women’s sports

Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas is beating the female competition in the pool, but she may also be boosting the GOP’s chances of winning in November at the ballot box.

Rep. Vicky Hartzler, a candidate for the Republican Senate nomination in Missouri, released an ad Monday criticizing the participation of Thomas and other male-born athletes in girls’ and women in competitive sports.

“Meet William Thomas, ranked #462 in men’s swimming. Meet Lia Thomas, ranked #1 in women’s swimming. Only one problem: It’s the same person,” said Ms. Hartzler in the 30-second spot called “Coach.”

She referred to the University of Pennsylvania senior’s best ranking in the 200-yard freestyle on the men’s team before transitioning to female and joining the women’s side for the 2021-22 season.

Thomas is now ranked first in the nation in the event, even though her time is more than two seconds slower than her best time on the men’s team.

“Some people are afraid to talk about it. Not me. I’m Vicky Hartzler,” she said. “I ran and coached girls’ track, and I won’t look away while woke liberals destroy women’s sports. Women’s sports are for women, not men pretending to be women.”

The ad met with pushback from transgender advocates. Cathy Renna, communications director for the National LGBTQ Task Force, called it a “cheap shot,” according to the Kansas City Star.

“This ad is about as transphobic as you could possibly get,” Ms. Renna said. “This is this is right out of the playbook for folks who are trying to use this as a wedge issue. And it’s really unfortunate, because the reality is that real people’s lives are impacted by this.”

The spot drew praise from Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, who said Ms. Hartzler is “tapping into parents and women’s frustrations by running a six-digit ad campaign focused solely on the threat to girls’ sports.”

Republicans have good reason to believe the issue is a winner. A May 2021 Gallup poll found that 62% of Americans believe that athletes should play on teams based on birth gender, with just 34% saying they should be able to compete in accordance with their gender identity.

The 22-year-old Thomas is the favorite in several events leading up to the Ivy League Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships, which start Wednesday.

The NCAA cleared the way for Thomas to compete next month in the Division I swimming championships by ruling that USA Swimming’s stricter eligibility criteria for transgender athletes would not be in effect for the finals.

Ms. Hartzler is vying for the GOP nomination against a field that includes former Gov. Eric Greitens and Attorney General Eric Schmitt. She was recently endorsed by Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican.

Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, announced last year that he would retire after serving two terms.