NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Republican challenger state Sen. Darren Bailey faced off Thursday night in the first of two Nexstar Media Inc.-hosted gubernatorial debates. Here are the moments from the first debate between Pritzker and Bailey that people are talking about.
‘Can I have a chance on that one?’ ‘No.’
In a back-and-forth-style debate, many questions were directed to one candidate or the other first, often with a chance for a response by the other candidate. However, some questions were tailored to either Pritzker or Bailey.
After going back and forth several times about taxes, moderators moved on to the next topic. Bailey disagreed, but he got effectively shut down by WGN-TV news anchor Tahman Bradley.
“Can I have a chance on that one? My name is being invoked,” said Bailey.
Bradley’s response was swift and effective: “No.”
The moment got a laugh from the audience and the moderators moved on to discuss abortion.
‘I couldn’t change that if I tried.’
WCIA-TV news anchor Jennifer Roscoe posed the possibility of a statewide abortion ban to Bailey, and he had a response that surprised some members of the audience.
“Illinois has the most permissive abortion laws in the nation. Nothing’s going to change when I’m governor. I couldn’t change them if I could (sic),” said Bailey.
He went on to say that abortion would not be a top focus for him in office, with his top issues being prioritizing taxes, crime, and education.
Leaving it up to the ‘co-equal branch’
Since the July Fourth shooting at a parade in Highland Park, Pritzker has called for a nationwide ban on assault weapons. When asked why this hasn’t happened on a state level, the governor sidestepped.
“There are working groups that are working through this in the General Assembly — remember, the General Assembly is a co-equal branch of government. They’ve got to do their work in order for us to actually have legislation,” Pritzker answered.
“We’re asking the questions here.”
Later in the gun control discussion, Bailey tried his hand at moderating by asking a question directly to Pritzker.
After dodging a question about whether he thinks teachers should be armed, Bailey changed the subject.
“While we have time, I want to commit to you that, when I get elected as governor, that I’m going to serve all four years of my term. I promise you I will not be running for another elected office,” Bailey said, in response to rumors of Pritzker running for president in 2024. “I’ve signed a people’s pledge promising that I’ll do that, and Go. Pritzker, I want to ask you if you’re interested in signing that same pledge.”
Bailey pulled out a piece of paper from his suit jacket amid cheers from the audience.
“Well? Do you have a response?”
Moderators took the moment to remind the audience to hold their applause, and to remind Bailey that “we’re asking the questions here.”
Pritzker renews his commitment to Illinois
Moderators took Bailey’s question and ran with it, and asked Pritzker to commit to carrying out a full term in office if reelected.
“I intend to serve four years more as governor, and get reelected, and I intend to support the president, who is running for reelection,” Pritzker said.
‘Could you name the Jewish leaders who agree with you?’
Bailey made the news recently when he compared abortion to the loss of life that occurred during the Holocaust. The statement was controversial and widely criticized by the Jewish community, including Bailey’s opponent.
Bailey has since doubled down on that statement, even stating in the debate that his statement “is true when you compare the numbers.”
He has stated that multiple Jewish leaders have told him that he is correct.
When asked onstage to name those leaders, Bailey said no.
The next debate is set for 7 p.m. on Oct. 18.