Last night at the University of Chicago, the republican gubernatorial hopefuls sparred with moderator Carol Marin from WMAQ channel 5. It was like being in a lion's den. All four GOP candidates participated. The debate was sponsored by the Institute of Politics run by former Barack Obama advisor David Axelrod.
The questions asked centered around social issues including capital punishment, minimum wage, campaign finance, gun control, marriage equality, ISAT testing, and abortion. One awkward question was, "as governor would you allow a same sex couple to stay overnight at the Springfield mansion?" One of the candidates blurted out something like, "in separate rooms?" This was followed by all the candidates saying they had "gay friends" and would allow it. It was somewhat humorous, awkward, bizarre, and offensive at the same time.
Some are saying the democrats are using this as a "wedge issue." Most republicans consider themselves open minded, respectful of privacy, and champions of civil rights.
Ms. Marin went on to question each candidate like an interrogator at a deposition. She asked Rauner about his daughter's admission at Walter Peyton High School. Then she asked Dillard about his "Obama so called endorsement TV commercial. She next asked Rutherford about releasing a government funded report about a scandal in the treasurer's office. The final victim was Bill Brady who was asked about some litigation his company was involved in. The barrage of tough, or should I say "gotcha questions," continued the whole 60 minutes with an additional 30 minutes on a web cast.
Next the candidates were asked about the Koch Brothers "controlling politics" with PAC donations. There was no mention of mega donors like left leaning George Soros. To some supporters in the room, it seemed like an attempt to embarrass each candidate and the Republican Party.
All in all each candidate was muddied up in this interrogation, called a debate. One of the candidates quipped, "it's beat up on Bruce night" yet all four seemed to get beaten up. I would suggest in the future, republican candidates avoid these types of venues and seek out a more unbiased moderator. Rumor is Carol Marin is a staunch democrat, but I wouldn't know. Carol Marin was a good TV host, kept it moving, and is an articulate seasoned reporter.
On the plus side, all four candidates did well. Rauner appeared to be a slight winner (in my opinion) in the battle. The theme of term limits, shaking it up, and "less of the same" seems to resonate with voters who want change. A poll released today indicated the numbers continue to go up for Rauner. A breaking story today involves yet another credit rating drop in Chicago's bond rating. People seem to want change with less taxes, less spending, and less borrowing.
I did my own straw polling afterwards of some go the 150 who attended. Three people said Carol Marin won and one person said David Axelrod won, who spoke to the group prior to the live broadcast. One other person said current Governor Pat Quinn was the big winner. Of the people I spoke to, most said they will not be voting for a republican no matter what, after all, we were at the University of Chicago.
As I entered the building, a group of protesters waited for Bruce Rauner. Some were wearing AFSCME shirts with signs like "Rauner, put seniors before profit" and "I'd rather be here than in a Rauner nursing home." I engaged the protesters and asked them if they remember Paul Ryan pushing a senior off a cliff. One of Rauner's companies had an interest in some nursing homes yet he has no connection to any wrongdoing. The unions seem afraid of him and are throwing everything at him including the kitchen sink.
Tonight is yet another debate at WGN studios with still another tomorrow at Illinois Benedictine College in Lisle sponsored by WIND 560AM. Wednesday, March 14 is the final debate at the WTTW studios sponsored by the City Club of Chicago. That one costs $100 to attend but I heard it will include open bar beforehand so I imagine it will be more fun.
The primary is Tuesday, March 18, 2014 with early voting going on now.