Tuesday evening’s gubernatorial debate again brought Democrat Gov. JB Pritzker and Republican challenger Darren Bailey together to the same stage, but remained far apart on the issues.
The debate held at the WGN-TV studios in Chicago featured many of the same topics as the prior debate at Illinois State University including crime, abortion, and the SAFE-T Act. However, new wrinkles were added in the hourlong conversation such as school curriculum and the possibility of a new stadium for the Chicago Bears.
While questions primarily focused on the issues, both candidates landed punches against their opponent with Pritzker calling Bailey a “threat to democracy” and Bailey calling Chicago “Pritzkerville” due to crime in the city.
It was the last scheduled televised debate between the candidates and possibly the last time they shared venues, giving Bailey perhaps his last chance to cut into Pritzker’s lead in the polls. Recent polling conducted by The Chicago Sun-Times/WBEZ found the Democrat with 49% of voters supporting him compared to 34% for Bailey.
Home field advantage for Pritzker
That same poll, when broken down to Chicago voters, found Pritzker’s lead grow to a substantial 66 points with 78% supporting him and 12% backing Bailey.
The Republican has been campaigning heavily in Chicago, even renting an apartment in the Hancock Center to “immerse himself in the culture” as he put it and also to win some votes in the state’s largest city. Challenging that connection, however, potentially are past comments and legislative action from Bailey regarding Chicago.
Once co-sponsoring a resolution to make Chicago separate from the rest of the state and calling it a “hellhole” on several occasions, Bailey introduced a new word on Tuesday.
“I’ve got a new name for Chicago,” the Republican said. “I’m going to call it Pritzkerville because every one of Governor Pritzker’s extreme policies are destroying the city.”
Bailey has attempted to tie the governor with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, calling them the “three musketeers of crime, chaos, and tragedy.”
When asked during the debate if he had met with either Lightfoot or Foxx, he said he had not and did not expect they wanted to meet with him.
For his part, the incumbent governor said his opponent did not have any solutions to the issues and again touted his record. Under his administration, he said increased hiring of state police, opening crime labs, and clearing the rape kit backlog were accomplished in spite of Bailey’s opposition.
“He has no plan and has presented no plan,” said Pritzker. “Complaining is not a solution.”
During an interview with Chicago Crain Business last week, Bailey suggested potential reductions to education spending due to what he called “administrative bloat.”
This is part of his zero-based budget plan, he said on Tuesday, which aims to place business-minded people in those administrative roles instead of current administrators.
“When Governor Pritzker throws cash out there, many times people just think they have a need to hire more administrators,” Bailey said. “We need to slash administrative funding and get that money in the classrooms to teach our children how to read and write.”
Keeping Bailey away from the governor’s office is a victory for education, Pritzker said, who suggested his opponent wants to “defund education” and thus drive up property taxes.
Pritzker also said the curriculum taught at Full Armor Christian Academy in Louisville, a private school founded by Bailey and his wife, should also be a concern. Textbooks from fundamentalist Bob Jones University were used in the school that taught “the majority of slaveowners treated their slaves well,” and “the contribution that women made to the workforce was not without its cost.”
Pritzker said, “the fact is Darren Bailey has proven that he would be dangerous for our kids, for our parents, for our communities, if he were put in charge of public education.”
When asked about his school’s curriculum, Bailey did not answer the question saying that his school was “not political to me” and did not know if this version of the Bob Jones University textbook was taught there. Instead, he attacked Pritzker for bringing cultural issues and critical race theory into schools.
Pritzker responded by saying CRT is not taught in Illinois and said the Full Armor Christian Academy curriculum is an indication of where Bailey wants to take the state.
“Why is he teaching it if he doesn’t believe it?,” the governor said.
A threat to democracy
Debate moderators referenced a recent Emerson College poll that asked Illinois voters what the most important issue is to them this election. Trailing only the economy, threats to democracy was identified as the second-most important issue to the group of 1,000 somewhat to very likely voters.
Asked who or what he would call a threat to democracy, Pritzker said the first person fitting that depiction was his Republican counterpart. The reasoning in part because of whom Bailey associates himself with: former President Donald Trump, who Pritzker defined as the “number one January 6th insurrectionist.”
“You can’t surround yourself with those people — election deniers — and then say you are going to uphold voting rights in the state of Illinois,” said Pritzker.
Trump endorsed Bailey prior to the June primary, and Bailey again thanked the former president for that endorsement on Tuesday. As for what role Trump plays in his campaign, Bailey said that responsibility rests on his shoulders. The gubernatorial candidate said he will tell who he supports in 2024 once the presidential candidates have been announced.
Attempts to attach him with Trump and other Republicans such as former Gov. Bruce Rauner were misplaced, Bailey said.
“Divide, divide, divide — it’s all you can do,” Bailey said to Pritzker.
Should the state help pay for new Bears stadium?
In New York, the taxpayer will foot approximately $850 million to construct the Buffalo Bills’ new $1.4 billion stadium set to open in 2026. In Illinois, it’s not known when a new stadium for the Chicago Bears could open but plans are underway to potentially move to an expansive, domed complex in Arlington Heights.
According to their official website, the Bears are not seeking public funding for stadium structure construction, but maybe “partnering with the various governmental bodies to secure additional funding and assistance needed to support the feasibility of the remainder of the development.”
Asked whether he would support using taxpayer funds for a new stadium, Bailey did not directly answer the question but said the possibility existed due to bad policies from Pritzker.
Pritzker, a self-described Bears fan, was not in favor of using state money for the stadium.
“I do not think the state should be funding the private development of a stadium anywhere in the state,” he said.
Who won the debate?
Much akin to the ISU debate, the post-debate discussions saw Pritzker take questions from the media in the spin room and Bailey opting to not speak with the press.
That sentiment was expressed via Twitter by Bailey’s official page, ending the post with the hashtag “#baileywins”
“Darren’s performance speaks for itself,” the tweet reads. “Pritzker can spin, but winners don’t need spin.”
Pritzker noted that tactic during his four-minute press conference and said his opponent was “all hat and no cattle.”
This story will be updated.
Contact Patrick Keck: 312-549-9340, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/@pkeckreporter
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October 19, 2022 at 08:48AM