The seven Republican governor candidates used a debate Wednesday night to try to distinguish themselves as the best to bring new leadership to Springfield, vowing to create jobs to counter Democratic calls to raise taxes.
Little new ground was broken in the hourlong forum hosted by WLS-Ch. 7, the League of Women Voters of Illinois and the Better Government Association. The debate largely was genteel, and few criticisms were lobbed at rivals, belying the tensions of a large GOP field facing primary voters in less than three weeks.
After a round of questioning in which the rivals gave lengthy answers about where they were raised, educated and lived -- a bid to weigh political experience against personal leadership traits -- GOP commentator Dan Proft mocked the responses.
"Like everybody else, I was born a poor black child, too," Proft said of the all-white field, adding that his rivals offer "navel-gazing bromides" for Illinois' problems.
Jim Ryan, of Elmhurst, the former two-term attorney general and unsuccessful 2002 GOP governor nominee against ex- Gov. Rod Blagojevich, said he offered to voters an "authentic" leader.
Explaining what would guide his governance, Ryan noted that he was "raised a Catholic" and "not just as a Republican, I believe in the importance of respect for life and human dignity, and that means if you're pro-life, you should be concerned about the poor and the disabled."
State Sen. Kirk Dillard, of Hinsdale, a former chief of staff for Gov. Jim Edgar, said he brings "a unique blend of experience, legislative and executive" to the office and warned it's not an "entry-level" position.
Bob Schillerstrom, DuPage County Board chairman, restated his political "Hail Mary" of offering to serve only one four-year term. Transparency advocate Adam Andrzejewski, who has courted disaffected "tea party" voters in his first bid for office, contended that the contest represents "a leadership election" and that some who have had political experience in Illinois' corruption-rich political atmosphere have gone "to jail."
Former Illinois GOP Chairman Andy McKenna defended his nearly five years of leadership, saying he worked hard to "show the hypocrisy of every leading Democrat" when top members of the state's majority party first endorsed, then backed off calls for a special election to fill Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun