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Illinois Republican debate sets new standard in public service
By Ray Hanania
For the first time in a long time, I actually watched politicians debate and felt comfortable that the candidates were actually saying things that had real meaning for me as a taxpayer and as a voter.
The debate hosted by WLS Channel 7 and veteran anchor (and friend) Ron Magers, was one of the most informative and interesting debates I have seen in 35 years of Covering Chicagoland politics. Not only did Magers demonstrate his mastery of bringing the four rival candidates to focus on the issues, but his queries were significant.
The candidates were Senator Kirk Dillard, Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford, gazillionaire businessman Bruce Rauner and veteran Republican Party leader Bill Brady.
Rauner clearly was the focus of much attention by the other candidates. And he held his own, although honestly with all his money, couldn’t he afford a better suit that fit better? And a better tie, too? Things like that don’t reflect on the level of my property taxes, or Chicago’s outrageous water rate hikes, or the collapsing state economy or the uncontrollably pension crisis. But it says something in a significant way about a businessman and how he handles himself. I expected to not have to be distracted by appearance ind ealing with a businessman who has been so successful.
On the other hand, Rauner stayed focused. He didn’t take the bait and snipe back at Brady or Dillard, who did most of the attacking, though it was often subtled and merge into his own message. But the attacks targeted Rauner and he showed that if he is the governor, he will be able to set aside his own personal ego to stay focused on the needs of Illinois residents.
Rauner spoke about his ideas, and his only criticism was focused against Democratic Incumbent Governor Patrick Quinn, wich is where the candidates should have kept the entirety of their remarks, but some did not.
Brady must be driven by the knowledge that he almost won the governorship four years ago against Quinn. He came within 30,000 votes, an achievable pocket of votes that can come from the Democrats in the Six County Region around CHicago who are dissatisfied with Quinn’s performance. Quinn’s problem is that he is self-centered and an egotist. He surrounds himself with PR and perception and not a lot of substance, sometimes. Though he has a long history of independence, his rise to the governor’s office was not on the basis of independence but on compromise and becoming a part of the Machine that he too often attacked.
But that doesn’t mean Quinn will be easy to take out. Quin has done much to improve the tragedy of Illinois. Yet his knack of grasping at Spin and PR can often leave a bad taste in the minds of taxpayers who are unsure whether Quinn cares as much about them as he cares about himself. He’s finally at the top of the mountain. The governor. The pinnacle of power in a system he has fought against as an outsider for years. He’ll do anything to keep it, making him a tough candidate to beat.
Dan Rutherford was a gentleman, who avoided the personal sniping to address the issues, too. His only problem is can he forge a strong enough vote, the way Brady did four years ago to successfully challenge Quinn. Can Rutherford, who offered a commitment to serving the taxpayers of Illinois build off of the base that had Brady knocking at Quinn’s door four years ago? Can Rutherford find the Democratic votes int he Six County Region — taking them away from Quinn, to win in November?
That’s a question he has to definitely answer.
There is no doubt in my mind that Kirk Dillard could have beaten Quinn four years ago. But losing to Brady may have taken the shine off of his ability to repeat and build. Dillard, another gentleman and great candidate — all of the Republican candidates shined as leaders with great ideas, Rauner, Dillard, Rutherford and Brady — has a tough hill to climb. Can he convince voters that he can go further this time than he did last time against Brady?
Rauner has the gasoline in the campaign tank. He has the money and base to wage a tough fight against Quinn and his moderate sounding temperament and ideas can appeal to Reagan Democrats, Democrats in the Southwest Suburbs and in the heart of the Democratic Machine base who have found a solid identity in conservative values on a national level but are hardcore liberals when it comes to local issues.
Those Reagan Democrats are now elderly baby boomers, soured by the failure of President Barack Obama and “ObamaCare,” a term I hate to use but that has become the label for Obama’s laudable effort to reform the corrupted healthcare system that unfairly denies healthcare to some while heaping it on the wealthy and those who live int he world of bloated pension payments that are killing our society today.
Kudos to all four candidates. Bruce Rauner. Dan Rutherford. Bill Brady. Kirk Dillard.
They all did a great job addressing the real challenges that all of Illinois taxpayers face, Republican, Democrats, Independents, young, old, Liberal, Conservative or disconnected. And kudos to WLS TV Anchor Ron Magers for another performance that demonstrates that he is probably one of the best journalists in Chicagoland and maybe in the entire country. Magers conveys a sense of true concern for the issues, a humbleness in his demeanor and a professionalism that is driven by fairness, caring and objectivity that so often is lost in mainstream American journalism.
Here is the video of the debate. If you did not see it, you should watch it. The future of Illinois is at stake.
Click here to go to the WLS TV video page to view the debate online.
WLS TV CHANNEL 7 REPUBLICAN GUBERNATORIAL DEBATE
FRIDAY February 28, 2014. Hosted by Journalist Ron Magers.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and political columnist. He is the managing editor of the Illinois News Network, columnist with the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, and Middle East issues analyst for the Arab Daily News online www.TheArabDailyNews.com)
This post has already been read 3122 times!
Hanania covered Chicago political beats including Chicago City Hall while at the Daily Southtown Newspapers (1976-1985) and later for the Chicago Sun-Times (1985-1992).
The recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, Hanania was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. Hananiaalso received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
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