By: Jessica Cerda
Benedictine University hosted the final GOP Gubernatorial debate before the 2014 primary elections. The debate took place in the Dan and Ada Rice center Thursday, March 6th at 7:00 p.m. All four candidates were invited, which consisted of state Sen. Bill Brady, Sen. Kirk Dillard, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, and Businessman Bruce Rauner. All except Rauner, who declined the invitation, were in attendance.
Radio station “The Answer” AM 560, co-sponsored the debate with Benedictine and aired a live remote broadcast from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. The panelists for the debate were Amy Jacobson from AM 560, the “John and Amy Show,” Naomi Lopez Bauman Director of Health Policy at Illinois Policy Institute and Benedictine’s Assistant Professor of American politics, Phillip Hardy.
Questions that the candidates were asked concerned student debt, the state’s financial issues, pension reform, minimum wage, and the new Conceal and Carry law.
On the topic of education, each candidate agreed that the student debt crisis was a major concern.
“We need a healthy and strong MAP program,” stated Brady. He also stressed the importance of students getting their associates degree so they can leave college with only two years of debt.
Rutherford agreed, adding in his own personal experience in paying for college. He explained that when he attended Illinois State University, he paid for his education 100 percent himself, whereas students now cannot do the same.
“Community college is a good return on investment,” said Rutherford in regards to student debt.
When asked about the state’s poverty, Brady said it all comes down to jobs. He explained that Illinois has lost 150,000 jobs in the last six to eight years, making Illinois the 3rd highest in unemployment rate. Brady proposed not to decrease nor increase the minimum wage.
“As governor, I’ll hold the line on minimum wage,” added Brady.
“I don’t think minimum wage should be lowered. I think it should be proportionate to inflation,” said Stephen Turcic, an attendee of the debate.
“There are more people living in poverty in suburbs than in the city of Chicago,” said Dillard, bringing the issue of Illinois poverty close to home.
In regards to Rauner declining the invitation to attend the debate, Dillard said Rauner missed every debate dealing with education.
“A complete no show at every chance he gets to meet with students,” added Dillard.
Brady also added his thoughts on Rauner missing the event telling the audience.
“We don’t know who Bruce Rauner is. You need to ask friends and family who their candidate really is that they are voting for,” said Brady.
“It clearly states the message that he’s not interested in sharing his views with the public openly or being asked questions on the same stage as his competitors, that negatively affects my perception of him,” stated Christina Ferrari, an attendee at the debate.
The 2014 primary election will take place on Tuesday, March 18th. The winner of the primary will be running in the general election in November. For those who have already made their decision, early voting for the primary started Monday, March 3rd and will go until March 15th. The closest location to submit a vote is the Naperville Municipal Center at 400 S. Eagle St. in Naperville.