Shock, anger and a renewed sense of purpose are the emotions Justice Horn is feeling after a Pride-themed campaign banner was defaced with an anti-gay slur this weekend in Kansas City, where he is running for countywide office.

Horn, a former NCAA wrestler who is openly gay, discovered “FAG” spray-painted on the banner Sunday, as he said in a post on Instagram.

“Earlier today, I learned that my campaign banner was defaced with a homophobic slur here in Kansas City,” he said in an Instagram post. “I’ll admit, this one hurt because like so many us of who experience this, this word is used to harm us. Either way, I’m not going to back down and I’m going to hold my head high.”

The banner was the same one Horn’s campaign used for the 2022 Kansas City Pride parade and “we decided to put it up for folks to enjoy it because representation is so important,” he told Outsports in an email.

Horn is running for a seat on the Jackson County, Missouri, Legislature from the Kansas City area and faces an Aug. 2 primary. The nine-member legislature is akin to a city council but at a county level. If he wins, Horn said he will be the first LGBTQ person elected to the Jackson County government and the only LGBTQ county official in Missouri.

“This happened in midtown Kansas City, here in in Kansas City, Missouri,” Horn said to Outsports. “My first reaction is one of shock, anger and energy to prove whoever defaced the banner wrong. It’s lit a fire in me to ensure that our community finally has a seat at the table.

“In regards to reporting it to the police, I am still going through the process of that and personally believe that this falls under a hate crime. This person defaced this banner out of hate because of my sexual orientation.”

This is not the first instance of hate Horn has faced as a candidate, he told Outsports. “I have had homophobic emails, comments, and things said to me on the campaign trail. In this work, I have even faced multiple death threats as well. All have been reported when it’s happened, out of concern for my personal safety,” he said.

In an interview with the Kansas City Star, Horn said why this attack bothered him.

“What bothers me the most is that it happened in broad daylight,” he said. “They were so emboldened to do this. It was specifically a defacing to attack me not based on my policy or my candidacy but on me personally. It was the same as calling me the N-word. It’s below the belt and it’s unfair.”

Horn is running as a Democrat in a deep-blue district, meaning that whoever wins the primary is almost a lock to win the seat in November’s general election. Horn hopes the incident galvanizes people to vote.

“This incident shows that LGBTQ+ representation is needed now more than ever because homophobia is alive and well in the heartland,” he told Outsports.

“I think the Kansas City community will come out to prove whoever did this wrong and elect the first LGBTQ+ person to Jackson County. I’ve been doing work in this community and its always shown up when it comes to issues like this. And based on Instagram [reaction], I think folks are more shocked than anything and I hope that this pushes them to action to vote on August 2, 2022. I have hope for this community.”

Horn will hold a news conference Tuesday at the sight of the defaced banner “because we need to call out hate when we see it, especially in our community,” he said.