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Debate showdown: Illinois GOP candidates for governor split up during competing debates

Published: May. 24, 2022 at 10:52 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - The six Republicans hoping to challenge Gov. JB Pritzker in November faced tough questions from political reporters in Chicago Tuesday night. But two different stations hosted debates leading to controversy with only half the candidates appearing on each stage.

While voters had the opportunity to hear from each of the candidates, Sen. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia) claimed he was on the “main card debate” and Aurora mayor Richard Irvin was “afraid to go toe to toe” with him.

Pick your candidate or pick your station...

Irvin, former state senator Paul Schimpf, and Max Solomon appeared on NBC 5 while Bailey, businessman Gary Rabine, and venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan appeared on WGN.

They quickly addressed the deadly school shooting in Texas and called for more safety in schools. Some of the candidates suggested schools should have armed security guards and better mental health services to prevent mass shootings.

“It is times like this where the soul of our state and nation are absolutely wrenched apart that we need leaders that can bring us together,” Schimpf said.

Schimpf, Solomon, and Irvin all believe Illinois should get rid of FOID cards for gun owners but keep background checks to stop bad actors. The candidates also gave their stance on abortion rights in response to the expected Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Although, Irvin continues to deflect from that question.

“I’m pro-life, but to comment on this leaked draft from the Supreme Court that is not the final decision...,” Irvin said.

“Don’t the voters have a right to know where you stand,” asked NBC 5′s debate moderator Mary Ann Ahern.

“It’s irresponsible for me to comment,” Irvin said. “I’m a lawyer.”

Irvin went on to say voters he has met across the state believe Pritzker is too extreme. He argues most voters are concerned that lawmakers passed a bill to repeal the law requiring parental notification of abortion for teenagers.

Political newcomer Solomon said he has prayed that Roe v. Wade will be overturned.

“I would push and I would govern from a perspective of making abortion illegal in the state of Illinois,” Solomon added.

Schimpf and Solomon told viewers they voted for former President Donald Trump in 2020, but Irvin will not tell anyone who he voted for in the general election.

Jesse Sullivan, Sen. Darren Bailey, and Gary Rabine speak during WGN's Republican gubernatorial...
Jesse Sullivan, Sen. Darren Bailey, and Gary Rabine speak during WGN's Republican gubernatorial debate on May 24, 2022.(WGN)

Bailey, Rabine, and Sullivan quickly attacked Irvin for skipping the WGN debate an hour later. Irvin’s campaign continues to put out mailers and ads accusing Bailey and Sullivan of secretly being Democrats. Bailey said he was looking forward to having a conversation with Irvin face to face Tuesday night.

“Richard Irvin is as corrupt as Mike Madigan and actually electing Richard Irvin into this seat would be no different than allowing Mike Madigan to serve as governor,” Bailey said.

Each of the candidates also addressed rising crime in Illinois, and how they would work alongside law enforcement by trying to repeal the SAFE-T Act championed by the Legislative Black Caucus.

“There is a war on police in the state of Illinois,” Sullivan said. “I will have their back unequivocally and I will stand behind them to get rid of this terrible crime situation on our streets.”

Rabine said Illinois needs more police on the streets and let officers enforce the law. He also called for state lawmakers to push for a recall law to take out any state’s attorney who doesn’t do their job properly.

“There’s police that maybe aren’t passionate about their jobs that need to be removed. We’ve got to be able to do that,” Rabine said. “But when we look at what’s going on in the city of Chicago, it’s a matter of no accountability. I don’t think that we’re holding people accountable as other cities do and as we once did.”

Meanwhile, Bailey said Critical Race Theory and sexual education for young children have no place in Illinois schools. Bailey noted that he stood up against both while serving in Springfield and he would fire the state superintendent of schools if elected as governor.

“They have failed our children egregiously. CRT was written into the rules. CRT can be written out of the rules,” Bailey said. “Government needs to be pulled out of our schools. Get the unfunded mandates out of the way and let local school boards and parents come together and decide how they want to educate their children in their schools.”

Although, the Illinois State Board of Education and countless lawmakers have confirmed Illinois is not teaching Critical Race Theory.

Irvin, Solomon, and Schimpf said the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol wasn’t an insurrection. Solomon and Schimpf said they don’t support Black Lives Matter. Irvin said everyone should agree that Black lives matter but he argues all lives matter.

“We are the United States of America. We’ve gotta start acting united,” Irvin said. “I believe that Black peoples’ lives matter just like all lives matter.”

“I believe that just like when people say that rainforests matter, it’s true,” Schimpf said. “Ok, but I do not agree with the methods and the goals of that organization.”

The Pritzker campaign said the competing debates made it clear whoever becomes the Republican nominee will drag Illinois backward with out of touch and dangerous proposals.

“Whether it’s fulfilling their decades-long desire to strip women of their right to choose, even in cases of rape or incest, legitimizing the violent mob that attacked the United States Capitol on January 6, limiting access to affordable health care, allowing more guns to flow into our communities, or utilizing the Rauner tactic of holding the state’s budget hostage—not one of these candidates will work to prioritize the needs of all Illinoisans,” said spokesperson Natalie Edelstein.

Pritzker’s campaign team also said the Republican candidates dodged and ducked many tough questions. Edelstein said candidates refusing to be honest with voters should be disqualified and none of the GOP candidates are fit to lead Illinois.

The next televised debate will take place June 2 on ABC stations across the state.

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