Editorial: Rauner, Pritzker and a dismal first governor debate

This editorial has been updated to correct the last name of gubernatorial candidate Sam McCann.

Given the dismal state of politics in Illinois, we guess we shouldn't have been surprised by the candidates' embarrassing display at the first governor's race debate Thursday night.

But disappointed we nonetheless are. The voters deserve better, The state deserves better.

This was a chance for Gov. Bruce Rauner to answer the central questions that voters have about him: What has he learned from his floundering first term and why should we think his second term will be any better?

Instead, his answer to every question seemed to be built, awkwardly at times, around his opponent's presumed big spending and corruption. The question didn't matter; queue the Republican campaign slogans.

Then there was Democrat J.B. Pritzker, whose performance was no more reassuring. His theme? Liar, liar, pants on fire.

There's a great irony in Pritzker calling Rauner a liar. It is Pritzker who, with our Editorial Board earlier this year, raised the possibility of a tax on vehicle mileage - and now denies that he mentioned it. Even though it's fully recorded. Denied it outright Thursday night even when Carol Marin gave him a chance to acknowledge but downplay what he'd said.

What the electorate needs out of you, Mr. Pritzker, is transparency. You deny Rauner's charge that your graduated income tax proposal would raise taxes on the middle class, but you provide no specificity that would enable anyone to see whether that's true. Where are the brackets in your graduated income tax proposal, J. B.? What is your definition of "middle class"?

Two other candidates took part in the debate on NBC5 and Telemundo Chicago, with sponsorship from the Union League Club of Chicago and Chicago Urban League - Libertarian Kash Jackson, who had trouble getting anyone's attention, and conservative Sam McCann, who spent his time yelling derisively over everyone to make sure attention wasn't his problem.

We hate to say it, but it's hard to get excited right now about any of these candidates.

There will be more debates. Maybe not as many as we'd like. Both to us and to the Chicago Tribune, Pritzker refused joint Editorial Board interviews that would include Rauner.

But there will be more debates.

ABC 7 will host the next one at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3. There'll be another televised debate in Quincy on Thursday, Oct. 11.

Both are expected to appear on a special episode of WTTW's "Chicago Tonight" on Monday, Oct. 8. And Pritzker did agree to a joint Editorial Board interview with the Chicago Sun-Times and that will be livestreamed on Tuesday, Oct. 9.

We'll do what we can to share all of them on

Let's hope the candidates appreciate that the voters will be watching. Let's hope the candidates see the debates as a chance to make the case for themselves rather than focusing on what's wrong with their opponents.

Pritzker floats idea for revamped gas tax, refutes Blagojevich ties

What Pritzker said about a mileage tax in January

'Liar,' 'failure,' 'phony': Going gets nasty with jabs in first gubernatorial debate

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