Q & A with Illinois Gubernatorial Candidates

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JB Pritzker and Daniel Biss faced off in a debate on NBC in January. Photo courtesy of NBC.

By Brennan Sullivan

Illinois residents will vote on key political races in the Republican and Democratic primaries this week. Both the Republican and Democratic governor races remain critical as the election approaches.

Current governor Bruce Rauner has a 31 percent approval rating, according to a January 2018 poll from Morning Consult. He faces Republican primary challenger Jeanne Ives, a state representative from Wheaton, in the March 20 election. A February 2018 poll from Southern Illinois University Carbondale has Rauner leading Ives by 20 percent. Rauner has faced backlash from both Democrats and Republicans for the decisions he has made during his time as governor.

The Democratic primary features six candidates for governor. J.B. Pritzker, Chris Kennedy, Daniel Biss, Tio Hardiman, Robert Marshall and Bob Daiber are all running for the party’s nomination. Of the six, Pritzker, Kennedy and Biss are considered the front runners in the race.

Capitol Fax, a leading Illinois political news outlet, has Pritzker up by 19 points as of March 12 in a joint poll with We Ask America. Overall, Pritzker has 35 percent of the vote. Kennedy is in second with 16 percent. Biss is just one point behind Kennedy with 15 percent. With just days to go in the election, the Capitol Fax poll found that 31 percent of voters surveyed are still undecided.

The Torch asked candidates J.B. Pritzker and Daniel Biss about how they will help college students and Illinois residents, if they are elected as the next governor. Candidate Chris Kennedy was also asked to participate, but did not respond in time.

As governor, how will you help students undergoing, or seeking to attain, higher education in the state of Illinois?

Biss: As governor, I will ensure that every Illinoisan has the opportunity to pursue higher education. My wife and I just finished paying off our student loans, and I know that middle-class and working families all across the state face this same challenge or aren’t able to to go college at all due to rising tuition. I was proud to pass the Student Loan Bill of Rights to protect vulnerable student borrowers against predatory lenders, and as governor, I will eliminate in-state tuition at all of our public colleges and universities.

Pritzker: I believe every student should be able to get a high-quality education without drowning in debt. To make that a reality, I would fully fund higher education and expand MAP grants to make college more affordable. These needed investments will help keep Illinois students from fleeing the state and rebuild our colleges and universities after Bruce Rauner decimated their funding.

How do you think Illinois should deal with the rising issue of climate change?

Biss: Illinois can be a nationwide leader in combating climate change. As governor, I will get Illinois on track to using 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, enter our state into the U.S. Climate Alliance, and ensure that renewable energy jobs and investments benefit communities that once relied on the fossil fuel industry. I received the endorsement of the Illinois Sierra Club in this race and have always earned a 100 percent rating from the Illinois Environmental Council at a legislator.

Pritzker: I believe climate change is a real threat and that we have a responsibility to act. I will take immediate action to enter Illinois into the U.S. Climate Alliance to uphold the provisions of the Paris Climate Agreement. I would also expand clean energy production and invest in green jobs to grow our economy and protect the environment. With these steps, and more, I will put Illinois on track to meet and surpass the current goal of 25 percent renewable energy by 2030.

In one sentence, why do you want to be governor?

Biss: I’m a middle-class father, public school parent, and progressive state senator and I’m running for governor to build a state that supports middle-class and working families.

Pritzker: The progressive values that I’ve fought for my entire life are under assault by Donald Trump and his partner in Springfield, Bruce Rauner, and Illinois’ working families need a leader who will fight to expand healthcare, invest in quality public education, and create jobs throughout our state.

The winner of the primary election on March 20 will move on to face the Republican nominee in the general election on November 6, 2018.

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