The six Republican candidates for Illinois governor faced off Tuesday night in Chicago for the first time, but a scheduling conflict made it so that the candidates were split between two debates that began one hour apart on two different networks.
The dueling debates came as both NBC and WGN in the Chicago area scheduled debates on the same night and neither would reschedule. That led candidates at both debates accusing those at the other one of avoiding the main stage and stiffer competition.
On the WGN debate stage, pictured above, were venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan, of Petersburg, state Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia and suburban businessman Gary Rabine. It took place at 7 p.m. and covered the candidates’ differences from ex-Gov. Bruce Rauner, pensions, law enforcement and the economy, overlapping several of the issues at the earlier debate.
The first debate, pictured below, began at 6 p.m. and featured former state Sen. Paul Schimpf of Waterloo, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin and Hazel Crest attorney Max Solomon. The debate covered abortion, whether Joe Biden was rightfully elected president, the events of Jan. 6, education spending, crime and more.
But the first question from NBC 5’s Mary Ann Ahern focused on a Tuesday shooting at an elementary school in Texas that left at least 21 dead, including 19 students. Ahern asked how the candidates would stop it from happening as governor.
“As governor, what you have to do is you have to support law enforcement. You have to try to keep our students safe by helping law enforcement to do their job. We also have to be exploring mental illness and the challenge that mental illness faces, poses for our country,” Schimpf said.
Irvin noted he was mayor of Aurora in 2019 when a shooter killed six, including himself, at the Henry Pratt Company in that city.
“We need a governor who’s going to stand strong and make sure that not only we heal after this, these events that seem to be happening so much throughout our country day in and day out where we’re comparing one violent act to another,” Irvin said.
“We need to make sure that we support our policing, and we support our neighbors, and our families, and our friends, and these school children that we don’t allow weapons to get into the hands of criminals and those with mental illnesses,” Irvin added. “And as governor, I will take a strong stance to ensure that we do what’s necessary to protect ourselves.”
Solomon said all schools should have armed security guards, stating, “I’ve always believed personally that it takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun.”
Sullivan, at the later debate, said “some of the root causes are getting back to fatherhood, and promoting the family in our society again.”
“I really do feel like when you remove God from our society, these are the types of things that happen,” Sullivan said. “You know, and the Democrats always want to talk immediately about gun control and limiting our Second Amendment rights. But that is not the, I mean, we have the strictest gun laws in the nation here in Chicago and what is that doing for us? I am pro Second Amendment but I also feel like we need to look at mental health services, you know, and we also have to look at faith and fatherhood.”
Bailey said in his response to a question about the shootings and Illinois Firearm Owner Identification card laws that he would look to repeal the FOID.
Bailey also called Chicago a “crime-ridden, corrupt, dysfunctional hellhole,” stating “no one knows that better than the friends and the people that live in Chicago.”
He also mentioned shootings in New York, which he said “has some of the most egregious gun laws that there are” even though shootings still occur.
“So I I’ve been striving for the last four years as an elected official to try to partner with community groups and church groups as well to empower them to be able to deal with mental health because much of these issues that we’re dealing with actually have to do more with mental health than anything else,” Bailey said.
Rabine responded that “bad people are going to get guns” regardless of policy.
“So we’ve got, we’ve got to really be better in my opinion, raise our kids better than we are and do better things,” he said.
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ON ABORTION, Irvin pulled a talking point he’s used at several news conferences, stating he is pro-life, but it would be irresponsible to comment on a leaked Supreme Court decision that could overturn Roe v. Wade. He also repeated that he would look to reinstate a requirement that doctors notify parents 48 hours before a minor receives an abortion.
Bailey said his only exceptions, in the unlikely circumstance he could work with lawmakers to outlaw abortion, would be for threats to the life of the mother. Otherwise, his policy would involve getting church groups involved to offer unspecified “options” to pregnant people.
“We’re asking church, civic, religious groups to come alongside and offer options that the pregnant woman may not know or be aware exists,” he said.
Sullivan said when he heard about the leaked Supreme Court decision, he dropped to his knees and prayed with his family, and he said he would “be the most pro-life governor in the history of the state of Illinois.” Exceptions include rape, incest and life of the mother, he said.
Schimpf said he would not necessarily push for, but would sign, “any legislation” that brings Illinois “closer to the mainstream.”
Solomon said he believes “that life begins before we were formed,” and Rabine said he would allow exceptions for life of the mother, and suggested increasing the use and funding of ultrasound machines.
“I’m confident that when … a young lady gets an ultrasound, the odds are over 80 percent that she won’t get that that abortion,” Rabine said.
Any action on abortion, however, would require action from the General Assembly that could very well maintain veto-proof supermajorities of Democrats.
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The two hours of dueling debates was a lot to sort through on a tight newsletter turnaround, so we’ll have more on the other topics discussed today at capitolnewsillinois.com and later this week in this newsletter.
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