CHICAGO (AP) — The major party candidates for Illinois governor repeatedly questioned each other’s honesty and competence Thursday in a debate dominated by angry exchanges.
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn said Republican Bill Brady has no accomplishments as a state legislator and makes “nonsensical” policy proposals.
“He’s reckless and he’s wrong,” Quinn said.
Brady called Quinn a “desperate career politician” who helped drive Illinois into a financial tailspin when he was lieutenant governor under ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich, and now makes false accusations to divert attention from his record.
“You need to start telling the truth,” said Brady, a state senator from Bloomington. He repeatedly linked Quinn to Blagojevich, calling him his “partner.”
Quinn shot back that he and Blagojevich had long been on the outs. “He never talked to me, everybody knows this,” Quinn said.
Pressed on his opposition to abortion, Brady said he does not believe women should face criminal penalties for getting an abortion. He argued that it is largely a federal issue and he isn’t interested in using it to divide Illinois.
Quinn, meanwhile, said he doesn’t see anything wrong in his decision to take the state budget director to a union meeting that helped him win an endorsement. Quinn said the state employee was there on his own time and did not say anything during the meeting with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Brady blasted Quinn for the move repeatedly, asking, “You don’t see a conflict?”
Quinn and Brady differed sharply on the state budget crisis. Illinois faces a deficit that could reach $15 billion next year, leaving it unable to pay bills on time.
Neither candidate has presented a complete plan for resolving the deficit. Quinn proposes doing it partly by increasing income taxes, and Brady says he can balance the budget through spending cuts.
“I’ve proposed it, I’ll admit,” said Quinn, who wants lawmakers to raise the income tax 1 percentage point for education.
Quinn said he supports borrowing about $4 billion so the state can contribute its share to government pension systems. Not doing so would be irresponsible, he said.
Brady disagreed, arguing the state should make the payment without borrowing. He did not explain how the state could come up with that kind of money.
Neither would commit to serving just one term so as not to have to worry about political considerations when making tough decisions to solve the state’s budget problems. Quinn is trying to win a full term to the job he inherited in January 2009 when Blagojevich was impeached and removed from office.
Brady said he supports letting public schools have the option to teach creationism. He also said he believes in evolution and that should be taught. Quinn said schools should teach science and not religious points of view.
The two often interrupted and talked over each other during the hourlong debate on WTTW-TV’s “Chicago Tonight” program. Green Party candidate Rich Whitney, independent Scott Lee Cohen and Libertarian Lex Green were not invited to take part.
Moderator Carol Marin struggled at times to get Quinn and Brady to stop arguing and answer her questions. She asked the candidates if it was possible for them to run campaigns that focus on the issues and avoid personal attacks. They immediately began bickering and trading insults.
“I’m taking this as, no, it’s impossible not to go negative,” Marin said.
Associated Press writer Christopher Wills contributed to this report.