Republican gubernatorial candidates spar at primary debate

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The four Illinois gubernatorial republican candidates participated in a one-hour long debate at the studio of WQAD’s sister station, WGN.

After having a debate the day before, businessman Bruce Rauner, Senator Kirk Dillard, Senator Bill Brady, and State Treasurer Dan Rutherford debated again Wednesday, March 5, 2014. The debate was carried out in an informal style with no time limits.

Throughout the debate, the candidates were presented with questions regarding unemployment, minimum wage, Illinois state tax and the religious freedom bill.  Along with tackling important issues, the candidates were each given the change to ask one opponent any question of their choosing.

Rutherford’s question was directed at Brady; he asked him to explain his plan to get rid of the Board of Education.

Brady said he made a proposal to eliminate the Board of Education because he is “tired” of lawmakers in Washington D.C. telling local schools how to run their classrooms.

“I want to downsize the department that eliminates red tape and reduces cost, delivering resources through the Regional Office of Education through community colleges,” said Brady.

He went on to explain his idea of bringing community colleges into the high schools, and allowing high school students to graduate with a two-year associate’s degree. He explained this would save time and debt for students.

Rauner asked Dillard why he was running in the republican primary, when Rauner felt he should be running as a democrat based on Rauner’s actions and endorsements.

“Well first of all I’m a lifelong republican,” Dillard said. He also mentioned that he was the former chairman of the DuPage County Republican Party. He said he’s not going to agree with all policies but did defend his vote for school reform.

In turn, Dillard’s question to Rauner involved inquiring about a large payment to Stuart Levine in light of the conflict of interest with the Teacher Retirement System.

“Isn’t it a conflict of interest to take $50 million of moneys from the Teacher Retirement System when Mr. Levine, your employee, is sitting on that board?” Dillard asked.

Rauner replied by explaining that Mr. Levine had worked for a company Rauner’s company made an investment in. He went on to say that he had “no interaction with him,” “didn’t hire him,” and “didn’t pay him directly.”

“He apparently was on the teacher’s retirement board,” Rauner said. “We were not aware of that fact.”

Brady asked Dillard to justify his reasoning for turning down a bill that could have saved Illinois taxpayers $180 billion in “meaningful” pension reform. Brady noted that Dillard had earlier approved a measure that was nearly identical.

“How can you sell out the taxpayers $180 billion when this state is crumbling with the loss of jobs, because of our fiscal irresponsibility?”

Dillard responded saying that he had a couple problems with that bill. One included his lack of time to study it.

“If I’ve learned one thing from Obamacare, I’d like to read the 350 page bill and I wouldn’t like it shoved on my desk after Thanksgiving weekend, 48 hours later saying here it is take it or leave it,” said Dillard.

He said he wanted a two day committee of the whole hearing. Also, he said they had just given Pat Quinn $1.3 billion without restrictions to help pay down the state’s old bills and to live up to his commitment that a 67 percent tax increase would be temporary.

“It’s really that we just handed Pat Quinn $1.3 billion without any tethers or any conditions that will let him expand the government,” Dillard said.

The primary election is March 18, 2014.