• Ben Szalinski
    OCT 19, 2022


    Pritzker more poised while Bailey sticks to his message in final debate for governor

    Gov. JB Pritzker, left, and Sen. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia), right, participate in a debate at WGN’s studios in Chicago Tuesday. [WGN-TV] 

    Three weeks before election night, Gov. JB Pritzker and Sen. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia) met for a final televised debate to make one more pitch to voters and show case their starkly different candidacies.

    The second debate comes as new polling shows a wide gap between the two candidates. A Sun-Times/WBEZ poll released last week shows Pritzker holds a 15-point lead over Bailey. Pritzker leads Bailey substantially in Chicago and Cook County, by three points in the collar counties and is tied with Bailey downstate. Nine percent of voters were undecided.   

    Bailey has been playing catch up to Pritzker given the state’s overall favoritism toward Democrats, Pritzker’s early attacks on Bailey in the primary, and his ability to use his multi-billion-dollar wealth to self-fund his campaign.   

    “He’s frankly too extreme for Illinois,” Pritzker said of his early primary attacks against Bailey. “I think those messages were good to put out then, they’re good to put out now because they’re absolutely accurate.”   

    Like the first debate, Bailey interrupted Pritzker on several answers and answered most questions drawing comparisons between himself and the incumbent governor. Pritzker did not engage Bailey’s interruptions as much, but frequently pointed out Bailey did not answer questions by giving plans on how he would solve problems.  

    Pritzker told reporters after the debate he didn’t feel he made any major changes to his debating strategy in the last two weeks but wanted to highlight a lack of concrete answers from Bailey.  

    Bailey used the debate to deploy new phrases in a campaign that has been marked by his nicknames for Chicago. Tuesday he renamed the city “Pritzkerville” and called Pritzker a “chumbolone.”   

    “In this case, I believe the elected officials are the fools here because JB Pritzker, [Chicago Mayor] Lori Lightfoot, and [Cook County State’s Attorney] Kim Foxx, well, they’re the chumbolones of Chicago,” Bailey said.   

    Pritzker took his own swing at Bailey when asked about any threats to democracy he sees in Illinois, which voters in a WGN poll last month identified as a top concern.   

    “Darren Bailey is a threat to democracy,” Pritzker said. “He’s surrounded himself with January 6 insurrectionists, sought out the number one January 6 insurrectionist, Donald Trump’s endorsement, and frankly it’s corrupt.”   

    On education, Pritzker again called Bailey “dangerous” after Bailey said in an interview with Crain’s Monday “the state should be paying less money” on education. Criticizing Bailey for statements about the treatment of slaves and women in a book in the curriculum of the school Bailey runs, Pritzker said “that’s an indication of what he would like to see in our school system.”  

    Bailey said his comments about reducing spending on education is because he believes in reducing spending on school administration.  

    “Get that money into the classrooms,” Bailey said.   

    He blamed legislation signed by Pritzker establishing a sex education curriculum, teaching Asian American history and about LGBTQ people in Illinois schools for worsening the state’s teacher shortage.   

    “Who wants to be a teacher and teach his radical, woke curriculum?” Bailey said.  

    On budgeting, Bailey was asked to explain his proposal for a “zero-based” budget and name three items he would cut under such a budget strategy. Bailey said he would fire each of the current agency directors and replace them “business based” directors.   

    “We’ve got to quit throwing money at the problem, and we’ve got to demand accountability,” Bailey said. 

    “That is the purpose of a zero-based budget: to find waste,” Bailey said.  

    Pritzker reiterated providing tax relief means the state must continue to balance the budget.  

    “I absolutely do not want to raise taxes,” Pritzker said. “In fact, I think we should lower taxes just as I have with the $1.8 billion Illinois Family Relief Plan.” 

    The Family Relief Plan is a temporary measure for Fiscal Year 2023. Pritzker signed bipartisan legislation in his first year increasing over 20 taxes and fees to help pay for the state’s capital plan.  

    Bailey argued Pritzker’s management of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is an example of how the governor is mismanaging agencies. The department’s director, Marc Smith, has been found in contempt of court 12 times this year for failing to place children in the agency’s care into appropriate care settings in a reasonable amount of time. Some children have languished for months in psychiatric hospitals beyond their discharge date because the agency had no room for them. 

    “Many people in your agencies, they’re pawns. You’re the one who tells them what to do,” Bailey said, pledging a total rebuild of DCFS if elected.  

    Pritzker answered by discussing improvements that have been made at the agency under his governorship, such as increased funding for the department and overhauling the agency’s hotline.  

    “No, I’m never going to be satisfied [with DCFS],” Pritzker said. “We have vulnerable children in our state. We need to make sure we’re taking good care of them. But it’s not like flipping a light switch and when Darren Bailey uses those children as political pawns, it makes it even harder.” 

    Pritzker said he still has confidence in Smith.  

    “Governors firing the head of the agency does not solve anything,” Pritzker said.  

    On crime, Pritzker took another stab at reforms he would like to see to the SAFE-T Act after dodging the question in the first debate.  

    “The folks who are critical of the SAFE-T Act and who are spreading disinformation want to let violent criminals out of jail on Jan. 1. That’s not what the SAFE-T Act says. But, if they’re going to try to do that, we ought to amend the SAFE-T Act to make sure they can’t do it. Let’s amend it, but not end it.”  

    The candidates were asked to give a grade to how Lightfoot and Foxx have handled crime in Chicago. Bailey gave them an F, while Pritzker declined to offer a letter grade, but did not give them a free pass.  

    “There’s more to be done, no doubt about it,” Pritzker said.  

    Bailey said there should be a focus on resolving immigration issues on the U.S. border with Mexico to address crime.  

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