On the heels of a second gubernatorial debate, Gov. Pat Quinn on Friday opted to wade into familiar water as he focused on education during a state grant unveiling at South Suburban College in South Holland.
Down in the polls, and with a little more than two weeks until Election Day, Quinn indicated that he's hammering the importance of education for good reason.
"We have to invest in education and I am the candidate for governor who believes in that. I am running against someone who wants to cut education in a very severe way...You can't go backwards. I think in many ways this issue will decide this election," he said.
In leaning so heavily on education as one of his chief talking points, the governor is betting that this issue resonates with young voters, whose turn-out as a voting block has been historically unreliable.
"How confident are you that this audience will vote?" this reporter asked the Governor.
"I think people in Illinois understand our number one mission in state government is education," Quinn replied.
But in the last midterm election in 2006, when 54 percent eligible voters aged 30 and older went to the polls, just 23 percent of those aged 18-30 did the same.
"They sure did vote two years ago when President Obama was on the ballot... I would say to all the folks who voted for President Obama, I'm on his side," said Quinn.
Republican candidate Bill Brady meanwhile spent some time Friday with charter school supporters in Elgin and said that education would also be a top priority in his administration. But to balance the budget, he said there must be across-the-board spending compromises.
"I'm going to deal fairly with all areas of state spending, so we can all be part of the solution," he said.
Brady said it's disingenuous for the governor to claim he's the education savior, pointing out that Quinn opposed the bi-partisan school voucher program and cut about $250 million in education funding in his proposed 2011 budget.
"He didn't just slash. He targeted classroom spending and left the entire state board administrative function intact," said Brady.