Republican gubernatorial debate held on campus

By Eleanor Black

Three of the four Republican gubernatorial candidates — Bill Brady, Kirk Dillard and Dan Rutherford — met Monday night at the i-Hotel in Champaign to debate issues and discuss their vision of the state’s future. Organizers said they repeatedly invited Bruce Rauner, the other Republican candidate, to join the debate, but he declined.

Kirk Dillard:

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State senator representing the 24th district. He served as Gov. Jim Edgar’s chief of staff from 1990-1993. This is his second campaign for Illinois governor.

Key points:

Dillard said he would announce his plan to make Illinois a “destination economy” for job creators on Tuesday, adding that the state is overtaxed and over-regulated. He said under his leadership, there would be a panel to “overhaul, top-to-bottom, our state’s archaic and over-regulated tax system and regulatory system.” 

Jil Tracy, a state representative for the 93rd district and his running mate, will receive testimonies from families, farmers and businesses across the state to find out what regulations stifle their economic development. 

Dillard said he wants to leave the minimum wage where it currently is and instead focus on well-paying jobs because “no one should be living on a minimum wage or raising a family on minimum wage.”

Education is a priority for Dillard, who said that he is the only candidate with a written plan for education, the “Best in Class” program. His candidacy has been endorsed by state education associations such as the Illinois Education Association, the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Retired Teachers Association. 

He highlighted agriculture as the most important and largest employer in Illinois, and focused on the family farm, funding agriculture programs and agricultural research. 

Regarding concealed carry laws, Dillard said he sponsored it “before it was cool to do so,” but the state should give the law time to see how it is implemented and wait to make any changes.

Dan Rutherford:

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Currently serving as the Illinois treasurer, previously served as state senator representing the 53rd district. This is his first campaign for Illinois governor.

Key points:

As governor, Rutherford said he would use his power to appoint directors of state agencies and make sure that those agencies help create and retain jobs in the state. He also said the lieutenant governor’s office under Steve Kim, an attorney and his running mate, will become the governor’s office for job creation and retention. Rutherford said he would be the “chief marketing officer” to promote the state of Illinois to both big and small businesses. 

In regards to minimum wage, Rutherford said he does not support lowering or raising it in Illinois at this time. 

“The minimum wage increase is a mandate from your government telling a small business, regardless of what price you charge for your product and service, your government is mandating you to increase your costs,” he said. 

As governor, he said minimum wage is not the target, but well-paying jobs are. He said a minimum wage increase, combined with other initiatives, could be a discussion in the future but it depends on a variety of factors. 

In regards to education, Rutherford said pre-kindergarten is a major priority for him. He also called investment in higher education a good business decision. 

As governor, Rutherford said he will look at the agriculture market on both a domestic and oversea scale, and various agriculture programs. Like Dillard, he wanted to watch the progress of the state’s concealed carry law and have a discussion about its implementation in the future.

Bill Brady:

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State senator representing the 44th district. This is his third campaign for Illinois governor. He won the Republican primary in 2010, where he beat Dillard by 193 votes.

Key points:

Brady said he is the only candidate in the race who has promised to deliver on tax cuts. He plans to balance the budget as governor and does not support cutting or raising the minimum wage. As governor, he will focus on bringing good-paying job opportunities to Illinois, he said. 

In terms of economic development, Brady said he and running mate Maria Rodriguez come from small business backgrounds and will focus on supporting the creation of such businesses.

Brady said Illinois needs a governor who will prioritize education funding and commented that pension reform was important because pensions “were going to eat up over 26 percent of our state revenues.” 

He also called for simplifying the current funding formula by getting rid of grants, for example, so that “the dollars follow the student,” as well as eliminating the State Board of Education’s power. 

In terms of agriculture, Brady discussed tax cuts and a 30-year plan to revitalize the transportation system, as well as research and development and energy resources, such as fracking, to help keep Illinois products manufactured and sold within the state. 

He also commented that he has a 100 percent voting record when it come to the second amendment and said that the bill that legislators worked on is fair, thanks to the training and background checks required.

Eleanor can be reached at [email protected]