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updated: 2/11/2014 10:13 AM

Rauner's absence noted at forum

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  • The Republican candidates for governor in the March primary are, clockwise from top left, Bill Brady, Kirk Dillard, Dan Rutherford and Bruce Rauner.

      The Republican candidates for governor in the March primary are, clockwise from top left, Bill Brady, Kirk Dillard, Dan Rutherford and Bruce Rauner.

 
 

Although just hours earlier candidate Dan Rutherford had denied allegations in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him, the focus of Monday night's GOP debate was more often directed at the one candidate who wasn't there: Bruce Rauner.

Rutherford, Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard participated in a debate sponsored by Northwest Suburban Republicans and WLS-890 on Monday at the Stonegate Conference and Banquet Centre in Hoffman Estates. It was the second forum in two days where Rauner was invited but chose not to attend.

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In a segment of the debate where candidates were allowed to ask one another questions, Rutherford pointed out that it was "unfortunate" that he could not ask Rauner anything because it would be met with 60 seconds of silence.

Moderator Dan Proft ended the debate by noting that Rauner was invited but did not choose to attend and by instructing the audience to "calculate that as you see fit."

Organizers left an empty podium with Rauner's name on the stage, and several candidates remarked on his absence.

The candidates also took a few shots at one another on Monday night. Brady brought up an ad for President Barack Obama in 2008 that included a message from Dillard.

"I said 15 nice words or seconds about him, and it wound up in an ad," Dillard said in response.

He said he thought the ad would be used online only and that he was commending Obama for his involvement in an ethics bill. When he saw the ad on TV he asked that it be pulled because he was a McCain supporter, Dillard said.

Brady later took a shot at Rauner said that at least Dillard has not donated money to Democrats as he said Rauner had with his support of Rahm Emanuel.

It was Dillard who finally brought up the question of sexual harassment allegations against Rutherford.

Rutherford called the question inappropriate, denied the allegations and was met with a round of applause.

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