GOP candidates for governor turn focus downstate

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 23, 2014 at 11:33 pm •  Published: January 23, 2014

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) — The four Republican candidates for governor tried to woo downstate Illinois voters at the latest in a series of debates Thursday, pledging not to let the state be dominated by Chicago-area clout.

The largely civil 90-minute debate in Peoria was a departure from a more combative forum last week in the Chicago suburbs, which Winnetka businessman Bruce Rauner described as a "beat up Brucey" session after his opponents lobbed criticism at him over past campaign donations and a changing position on the minimum wage.

Along with debating the minimum wage and pension reform, the candidates — State Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard, State Treasurer Dan Rutherford and Rauner — differed little in weighing in on how to make school funding more equitable across the state, the expansion of gambling and the start of hydraulic fracturing.

Dillard said that for too long Illinois been run by one party and one city.

"We need to restore the political balance of Illinois," he said.

The Peoria event was one of a handful before the March 18 primary where all four were in attendance. Rauner, who has used his hefty war chest to saturate the airwaves with campaign ads, says he will make only take part in a select few debates. Rutherford, Brady and Dillard have used the debates to compensate for their fundraising disadvantage.

On education funding, each of the candidates said there needed to be better equity in resources between urban and rural and rich and poor districts.

Dillard told the moderators that Chicago's predominance at the state Capitol didn't bode well for other schools cross the state. Rauner advocated changing the "ineffective and murky" funding formula to make schools more equitable.

Brady said the state board of education should be eliminated, and the state should do away with a number of unfunded education mandates. And Rutherford said local districts should have more local control over how tax dollars are used.

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