Final Pritzker-Bailey debate: Chicago crime, DCFS strife, marijuana, Bears, fashion and marriage

Tuesday's final debate between Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Republican state Sen. Darren Bailey offered an abundance of loathing on both sides but no knockout punches.

Pritkzer has led in polls, making the WGN-Channel 9 forum a crucial 60 minutes for Bailey to snap up votes in the Nov. 8 election.

Asked about calling Chicago a "hellhole," the Xenia farmer doubled down. "I've got a new name for Chicago. I'm going to call it Pritzkerville because every one of Gov. Pritzker's extreme policies are destroying the city.

"Out of control crime. Devastated education. Corporations are packing up and leaving every day. Chicago is the nightmare called Pritzkerville, and it is still two weeks from Halloween," Bailey said.

Pritzker, of Chicago, retorted that his opponent "just showed you he has no plan to address crime in Chicago. He wants to throw Chicago out of Illinois."

The governor touted increasing funding to hire more Illinois State Police troopers, expand the state crime lab and eliminate a rape kit backlog. "Darren Bailey voted against all of that," Pritzker said.

On whether he'd reverse decriminalization of recreational marijuana, Bailey said "I don't see that happening. That's not on my priority list." He accused Pritzker of failing to ensure that Black-owned businesses received cannabis dispensing licenses.

"I'm out in the Black community ... and they were screaming foul because they can't get the licenses. I simply tell them you've got a governor who doesn't tell the truth," Bailey said.

Pritzker shot back that Bailey "opposed cannabis legalization. Now he wants to complain about how that legalization operates. You've got to be at the table to get things done, and indeed we have implemented equity."

Pritzker was questioned about beleaguered Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Director Marc Smith, who's faced contempt of court charges for the agency's not properly placing children in their care.

"For 20 years DCFS was underfunded and understaffed," Pritzker said, adding he had instituted reforms.

"We have vulnerable children in the state and we need to make sure they're taken care of. But it's not like flipping on a light switch. The governor firing the head of the agency is not going to solve everything. You have to go in and fix the problems."

WGN anchor Tahman Bradley reminded Bailey of his endorsement from Donald Trump in the primary, wondering if he'd seek the former president's help on the campaign.

"No. I am in charge of my campaign," Bailey said. "We're the ones making the decisions, and I'm grateful for his endorsement."

Regarding using state funds to help the Chicago Bears develop the former Arlington Park site for a stadium, Bailey said: "We have to back up and look at why this situation has arisen. It's because state and local government has failed.

"More taxes is not the answer," he said. "We need to sit at the table and come up with solutions."

"I'm a Bears fan," Pritzker said. "I support the Chicago Bears, but I do not think the state should be funding private development of a stadium anywhere in the state."

The testy evening ended on a surprisingly light note when anchor Micah Materre asked the candidates to say what they admired about the other.

"Gov. Pritzker, I'll going to be honest - you look awesome," Bailey said. "I like your suits. I think you look good in them. I hope after the election, we may come to terms and you can take me suit shopping."

Pritzker had no sartorial comments but told Bailey: "I admire the fact you married your high school sweetheart (Cindy Bailey), that you've been together now, for I think, 30 years. That shows deep commitment. ... That's something I share as well."

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker participates in a debate Tuesday at the WGN-Channel 9 studios in Chicago. Associated Press
State Sen. Darren Bailey participates in a debate Tuesday at the WGN-Channel 9 studios in Chicago. Associated Press
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