Pritzker, Bailey show clear divide on crime, abortion in candidates forum

There was no middle ground between Gov. J.B. Pritzker and state Sen. Darren Bailey at a rancorous candidates' forum Friday, where the issue of crime loomed large.

The Chicago Democrat and Xenia Republican clashed hotly over the controversial SAFE-T Act, which ends cash bail in 2023.

"Darren Bailey wants to keep the current system where murderers and rapists can buy their way out of jail," Pritzker said at the Illinois Associated Press Media Editors event, held virtually.

"Meanwhile, a new mother who needs diapers or baby formula and commits shoplifting is in danger of sitting in jail for months because she can't afford a few hundred dollars in bail. That's unfair," he said.

Bailey predicted a spike in crime. He said Pritzker "intends to let criminals out of jail and paints a rosy picture of hiring more police to do what? Those police aren't going to have the power to do what they need to do."

Pritzker emphasized, "No, we're not going to let people out of jail on Jan. 1 - that's not what the law does. It does give judges the ability to keep murderers and rapists in jail, to keep domestic abusers in jail."

Bailey noted police unions such as the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police have endorsed him over concerns about the act, and numerous state's attorneys "are joining together to push back against this nonsense. They know it's problematic. They know it's going to wreck havoc. It must be repealed in its entirety."

The policy expands body camera use and revises use-of-force standards, among other changes. It emerged after the 2020 death of George Floyd in police custody, and supporters say it reduces systemic racism in the criminal justice system.

Pritzker said he was "open" to changes to clarify the law proposed this week by Democratic state Sen. Scott Bennett of Champaign.

Asked if he stood by a previous "void the FOID" card stance for gun owners, Bailey said, "I believe the FOID card is a money grab. We have federal firearm background checks. Illinois has the most restrictive gun laws in the nation. Those laws aren't being honored and they're not being followed.

"The city of Chicago - there hasn't been a day in 31 months where there hasn't been a shooting or a killing. We've got to build up our law enforcement and got to make sure the laws are working for the people," Bailey said.

Pritzker countered that "what my opponent just said essentially is he's opposed to universal background checks because that's what the (Illinois) FOID card allows us to do - a universal background check. That's not what the federal background check does."

Pritzker supports a ban on so-called assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, citing the July 4 mass shooting in Highland Park that killed seven people.

"We don't need something that can shoot as this shooter did ... 83 bullets in less than 60 seconds," he said.

Another hot button topic was abortion. Illinois has enacted laws to protect abortion rights and is considering more after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

"I'm focused on preserving a woman's right to chose and making sure Illinois is a safe haven for people who seek to exercise what I think are basic constitutional rights over their own bodies," Pritzker said.

"Darren Bailey thinks he or politicians should be in the room when a doctor and a woman are making decisions about her health. She should be making those decisions."

Bailey contended that the state has "the most permissive abortion rights in the nation."

"Women's rights are well-protected here - nothing's changing. I couldn't change it if I wanted to," Bailey said. "Gov. Pritzker is staying up at night thinking up new rights."

"Who'd have thought a 12-year-old girl would be making a decision about abortion without her parents knowing about it?" he said, referring to a 2021 law repealing parental notification of abortions.

In summary, Pritzker said he had expanded the Illinois State Police force, achieved six credit upgrades for the state, raised the minimum wage and lowered college costs, among other achievements.

"I accomplished all of that while fighting hard through a deadly global pandemic, saving lives and livelihoods," he said.

Bailey explained he was "running to restore hope for every Illinoisan."

"We're going to do that by bringing back safety to our streets," he said. "We're going to do that by restoring education; our schools have been decimated these last four years. And we're going to do that by allowing men and women to thrive and work and raise their families in Illinois."

Participants in the forum included the Daily Herald, Shaw Media, the Springfield State Journal-Register and Capitol News Illinois.

Watch debate over the state referendum on Amendment 1, about unions

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