During a candidate forum that covered topics ranging from minimum wage to charter schools to same-sex marriage, Illinois' Republican gubernatorial candidates agreed Tuesday that the state's pensions and its overall business climate need to change.
"The reason I'm running is we have a failed culture in Springfield, and it's bipartisan failure," Bruce Rauner said in a forum cosponsored by NBC 5 Chicago and the University of Chicago, noting "I believe that Gov. Quinn will never transform our state."
While Rauner pointed blame at Gov. Pat Quinn, other candidates took the chance to take shots at Rauner, a venture capitalist and first-time candidate leading the polls.
"There's no question Mr. Rauner is trying to buy this race," Bill Brady said, later saying, "He's tied to more felons who are in jail than I think Rod Blagojevich."
"He's just made it obscene," Kirk Dillard said.
In response, Rauner said he's being attacked because "we're winning, we have a message that we're going to shake up Springfield."
The candidates came together two weeks to the day before the Illinois Primary, to discuss issues posed by NBC 5 Political Editor Carol Marin and audience members.
When asked about the state's minimum wage, Brady and Dillard said it should remain where it is. Dan Rutherford said he would consider raising it above $8.25, and Rauner said the national minimum wage should be moved to Illinois' level.
Asked about charter schools, the candidates agreed they should be monitored.
"I support them but not all charter schools are created equal," Dillard said. "You've got to monitor them, see where there test scores are."
"Public dollars shouldn't go to charter schools," Rutherford said.
All agreed concealed-carry was long overdue in Illinois.
"I absolutely support concealed carry and I absolutely will be applying for my permit," Rutherford said. "Would I carry? Absolutely."
Questions turned more personal in some cases. Marin asked whether taxpayers deserve to see the state treasurer's report regarding a sexual harassment claim made against Rutherford.
"When a federal lawsuit was filed, then the rules of the game changed," Rutherford said. The report will not be released, he said.
Marin asked Rauner about calling former Chicago Public Schools chief Arne Duncan about getting his daughter into Walter Payton College Prep. Rauner said he didn't ask for special favors or treatment, that he wanted to know how the process works.
"I did what any parent would do and followed the process," he said.
In past debates the candidates have agreed on immigration reform, the need for pension reform and attacking Quinn. They also said they are willing to work with unions if elected but differed on how to do it.
Last week rivals ripped venture capitalist Rauner, a first-time candidate leading the polls, calling him naïve and questioning the role he played in his company’s ownership of nursing homes.
“Unfortunately we really don’t know much about Mr. Rauner because he’s never been in office or run for office,” Brady said.
In the same debate Rutherford was the only one to bring up the allegations he faces of misconduct by a former employee. “These allegations are false and I know cannily how tough this has made my campaign,” he said.