Six GOP candidates spar over sex education, mask mandates and crime

The six Republicans running for governor battled to outdo each other's conservative credentials on topics ranging from sex education to reducing violence Thursday in an ABC 7 debate.

In the wake of recent mass shootings including a massacre at a school in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, the candidates - state Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, McHenry County business owner Gary Rabine, former state Sen. Paul Schimpf of Waterloo, attorney Max Solomon of Hazel Crest and venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan of Petersburg - were asked how they would solve the crisis.

"The real problem is the liberal agenda that is taking God and faith values out of our society," said Sullivan, who participated remotely after testing positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday.

Bailey said tougher gun laws weren't the answer. Instead, "we must offer mental health solutions," he said.

Solomon promised that "as your governor, the first thing I would do is to make sure all of our schools from kindergarten through 12 are secured by armed guards."

Rabine agreed with armed guards but went further.

"Advanced concealed carry training for teachers that want it, I think, is a great idea," he said.

Irvin said "we've got to focus on safety and responsibility ... making sure we keep these guns out of the hands of criminals and out of the hands of people with mental illness."

Schimpf advocated using veterans as safety personnel in schools, and made a promise.

"Unless I significantly reduce violence in Illinois, you will not see me run for reelection," he said.

Moderator Alan Krashesky asked about requiring masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19 as cases rise.

Bailey, who sued the state in 2020 over masking, said, "I'm the only person here who actually did something."

Rabine, who joined a lawsuit in 2021 suing the federal government over the Biden administration's mask mandate, touted his case as "the biggest lawsuit in the country in a long time. It was a huge win."

Sullivan said that if elected, "on Day 1, I'll end the mask mandates and the vaccine mandates; they've been a disaster."

Another question was whether sexual identity education should be offered in schools.

"No teacher in Illinois should be teaching any child K-12 anything about sex, LGBTQ or any other orientation," Solomon said.

"Parents' rights are paramount," Irvin said. "As we compete as a state and nation against other countries, we have got to get back to the basics: reading, writing and arithmetic."

Schimpf said he has long backed a constitutional amendment on parents' rights.

"Parents' rights mean parents determine their child's' education and health care," he said.

Bailey stood by comments last week referring to Chicago as a "hell hole" and referenced an attack on a homeless man who was set on fire May 25.

"Chicago's a great city and we've got to restore it," he said Thursday night.

Irvin, seen by some political experts as the front-runner in the race, deflected jabs about taxes and crime in Aurora.

"My opponents here on the stage are attacking me, and I understand and I get it," he said. "They're threatened by the fact that ... I'm hurting their political aspirations."

The primary election is June 28. The Democratic candidates are incumbent Gov. J.B. Pritkzer and nurse Beverly Miles of Chicago.

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