Candidates spar at GOP gubernatorial debate

March 13, 2014

GOP Debate 3

Benedictine University hosted on March 6 one of the Republican gubernatorial debates.

 About 700 people attended the debate in the Rice Center Arena, which was sponsored by the Center for Civic Leadership (CCL) and broadcast live by co-sponsor AM 560 after an hour pre-debate program hosted by former U.S. congressman Joe Walsh.

"The debate was a big success," said Phil Hardy, Ph.D., assistant professor of Political Science at Benedictine and acting CCL director. "I heard many people offering very positive comments about the event aesthetics, organization and format."

State Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale), state Treasurer Dan Rutherford and state Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) participated in the debate, at which the candidates were questioned by a three-person panel, which included Hardy, and allowed to present their ideas for the future of Illinois.More attention was paid to who wasn't there than who was. Bruce Rauner, the fourth Republican candidate for governor, did not attend the debate.

Frontrunner Rauner's absence from the Republican gubernatorial did not prevent his three opponents from criticizing the businessman-turned-politician.

Dillard blasted Rauner, who is the chairman of R8 Capital Partners and former chairman of the private equity firm GTCR based in Chicago, one day after Rauner blew off a similar event at the University of Chicago.

Rauner has been limiting his exposure to live, unscreened people, media and large crowds during the final weeks of the primary race.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported in January 2014 that the Rauner Family Foundation gave $250,000 to the Payton Prep Initiative for Education on December 14, 2009 — about a year and a half after Rauner called then-Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan to overturn his daughter's rejection.

Dillard called Rauner "dangerous" and "an unknown" whose lack of experience would be harmful to Illinois. Dillard's criticism was echoed by state Treasurer Dan Rutherford.

"What's really going to count in this Republican primary is going to be who is standing before the hot, searing spotlights right here in this arena," Rutherford said. "Who are the candidates that are out there…talking to you and looking you in the eye?"

Rutherford was largely spared from barbs by his fellow candidates and chose to push his plan to freeze hiring and promotions for state employees, form a performance review committee and improve government services including an overhaul of the redistricting process through a fair map amendment.

Dillard, who served as chief of staff under former Gov. Jim Edgar and has represented the 24th district since 1994, proposed placing a moratorium on the health care mandate and forming a panel of advocate groups and businesses to rewrite the tax code.

Brady, the Republican candidate in 2010 who defeated Dillard by 193 votes in the GOP primary but lost to incumbent Democrat Gov. Pat Quinn in the general election, called for maintaining the current minimum wage, guaranteeing tax cuts in 2015 and eliminating the State Board of Education.

The debate was organized by the CCL to provide local residents and Benedictine students an opportunity to hear and question the candidates for one of the biggest gubernatorial jobs in the country.

Benedictine was one of only two Illinois universities to host a Republican gubernatorial debate. Students working at the event included CCL volunteers and members of the College Republicans.

The CCL regularly invites prominent figures to speak on campus to involve and engage students and the community in multiple issues and topics of public concern.

Many Chicago area media attended the event including ABC 7 News, Fox 32 News and WGN 9 News, which broadcast live from the event. Benedictine's central location in the western suburbs of Chicago makes for a perfect backdrop for speakers and public servants to visit and reach a large audience.

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Benedictine University is an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois and Mesa, Arizona. Founded in 1887, Benedictine provides 55 undergraduate majors and 17 graduate and four doctoral programs. Benedictine University is ranked No. 1 among the country’s fastest-growing campuses between 2000-2010 in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s list of private nonprofit research institutions, and Forbes magazine named Benedictine among “America’s Top Colleges” for the third consecutive year in 2013. Benedictine University’s Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain’s Chicago Business as the fifth largest in the Chicago area in 2013.

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