By Mark Weyermuller -
In boxing, a winner can be decided by a knockout punch. But that didn't happen in the final Republican gubernatorial debate on Thursday night held at the WTTW studios in Chicago. It was broadcast live on Channel 11 with Phil Ponce as moderator. The debate was sponsored by the City Club of Chicago with 150 members in the studio audience.
Upon entering the parking lot beforehand the Rauner campaign had 50 supporters holding huge 4 by 8 cardboard "Rauner for Governor" yard signs. There is little doubt or debate of who has had the most organization, commercials, volunteers and money. None of the other candidates had supporters outside nor were there any protesters as seen at the University of Chicago debate last week.
The participants in this bout were seated at a table in ballot position left to right, Bill Brady, Dan Rutherford, Kirk Dillard, and Bruce Rauner. Boxing matches are often scored round by round with a point system. Each of the candidates got some punches and jabs with no clear body blows or knock downs. The discussion was similar to the other debates - 20 in all - with no new big revelations.
I did an informal straw poll (unscientific) afterwards and found that those listening though Rauner was the slight winner with the "technical knock out."
Perhaps the most interesting discussion in the hour long debate pertained to the use of so called "assault weapons." All the candidates claim to be Pro 2nd Amendment, yet when it comes to specifics, they all wanted guns for only hunting or target shooting. Second Amendment advocates generally want weapons for protection against criminals or possibly their own government. On that topic, Dan Rutherford, who probably was given the least amount of time, had the best line. He said he needed an assault weapon to "mow down the beavers" on his 24 acre property near downstate Pontiac, where wild animals can be a nuisance.
The highlight for the studio audience was the open bar before and after. City Club members paid $100 to attend and sponsor the event. Chicago style food was served including chicken fingers, corn dogs, french fries, and caramel corn in Cubs & Sox paper cones.
The local media was out in force with each candidate doing a press conference after the debate. Rutherford and Rauner chose to skip the conference but the media swarmed in as Rauner tried to leave the studio yelling questions and blocking his egress. Rauner ended up doing a a few minutes of Q&A in the media room. I don't recall the local media ever doing this with Pat Quinn, Rahm Emanuel or Michael Madigan.
This had been one of the most interesting primaries in recent history with lots of drama. Many of us political junkies and boxing enthusiasts are relieved it's almost over. Like boxing matches we are on the last round and need to determine a winner so we can move to the next bout in November. Bruce Rauner appears to have a significant lead in all polls.
The primary is Tuesday, March 18, 2014 with early voting going on now until Saturday. The winner Tuesday will face Democrat Pat Quinn in the general election on November 4, 2014.
Photos by Mark Weyermuller