PLAINFIELD – Will County residents got to hear three Republican candidates for Illinois governor explain their stances on job creation, education and issues with the public and private sector Tuesday night at Plainfield Central High School.
The discussion, hosted by the Will County Tea Party Alliance and styled as a question and answer session, saw a tame discussion between panelists and candidates Bill Brady, Kirk Dillard and Dan Rutherford.
“We want to educate people on the candidates,” co-organizer and panelist Stephen Balich said. “Right now, people just don’t know who to vote for.”
Candidate Bruce Rauner was invited to the forum but declined the invitation. An empty seat on stage signaled his absence.
WLS Radio host Dan Proft led the discussion, asking rapid-fire questions.
A candidate was granted rebuttal time if mentioned by another candidate.
Dillard focused his answers on making Illinois a destination economy for people to create jobs, passing a constitutional amendment to withhold salaries for legislators if they don’t pass balanced budgets and reforming Medicaid.
He fielded questions about his connections to unions and education reform.
“Public sector unions are one thing, but private sector unions are another,” Dillard said, adding he has taken money from engineer unions. “I respect teachers. We’ll see if I have endorsements of teachers unions this time around.”
Brady tried to assure conservative voters he was fit to win the election against Gov. Pat Quinn after losing in the last election.
“I’ve learned you can’t spend enough time in Cook County,” Brady said, expressing confidence in the same staff that ran his last campaign. “You know what you’re going to get with Bill Brady. I’m the only one who’s got the base in support.”
Rutherford cited his experience as state treasurer and the fact that he is the only candidate who has won a state election while clarifying his giving 19 additional people government salaries.
“They’re not salary increases, they’re promotions for people doing exemplary jobs,” Rutherford said. “I promoted from within, I understand good stewardship.”
All candidates fielded questions about pensions, education, the public and private sector and taxes.
“I would have preferred if Bruce [Rauner] came,” Balich said. “He had a prior commitment so he couldn’t come.”
The three Republican candidates took aim at the absent Rauner, who was the subject of a Chicago Sun-Times story Tuesday that revealed his daughter received admission to Walter Payton College Prep before he paid Payton Prep Initiative for Education $250,000.
Rauner is also facing fallout after flip-flopping his position on Illinois' minimum wage.
The topics came up numerous times in questions for the candidates.
Joliet resident Audrey Logan is an independent voter and she came to the forum for her son, who is in the debate club at Plainfield Central High School and had a chance to personally talk with candidates. But she came out of the forum feeling she knew the positions of each candidate.
“Now I feel like I can be a more informed voter if I do choose to vote Republican,” Logan said.
Plainfield resident Betty Pemble came to the forum to learn more about each candidate.
“I thought it was very informative,” Pemble said. “Taxes are a big issue for me. I thought the candidates all explained their financial perspective.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly indicated when candidate Bruce Rauner paid an endowment fund tied to Walter Payton College Prep. He donated to the fund after his daughter was admitted to the school.