Candidates Call for Downstate Debate to Go On

JB Pritzker’s gubernatorial campaign continued to do damage control Wednesday in the aftermath of newly-released FBI tapes, which featured off-color conversations about black politicians with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2008. Mary Ann Ahern reports. (Published Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss is circulating a petition to save a televised debate in downstate Illinois after J.B. Pritzker announced that he would not participate.

The debate, scheduled to be hosted by Springfield-area television station WCIA, is in danger of being cancelled after Pritzker’s campaign confirmed this week that the candidate will not participate in the event.

On Wednesday, Biss’ campaign started circulating a “Save Our Downstate Debate” petition to convince the network to move forward with plans to host the event on March 5.

“Pritzker, who has recently dropped in the polls and is battling off one negative news story after another is clearly worried about going up on stage in front of a statewide audience two weeks before primary election day,” Biss communications director Tom Elliott said in a statement.

Biss’ campaign says that the petition will be delivered to WCIA and Nexstar ahead of the scheduled debate.

The Pritzker campaign says they will focus on having “individual conversations with voters” over participating in another televised debate, and says the candidate is looking forward to participating in the remaining scheduled debates.

“JB has enjoyed participating in over 30 forums and looks forward to participating in the final four of six agreed to debates, which is more than gubernatorial Democratic primary candidates have done in the past,” the Pritzker campaign said in a statement.

Candidate Chris Kennedy’s campaign, also circulating a petition, weighed in on the Pritzker news, accusing him of “hiding behind” television ads instead of participating in debates.

Photos: Democratic Candidates for Governor Face Off

“By rejecting the only televised debate scheduled outside the Chicago market, JB Pritzker has sent a clear message to voters that they’re not worthy of hearing where he stands on the issues,” the candidate said in a statement. “If he chooses to hide behind his TV ads and sit out this debate, the debate should still happen.

“Voters should still have the opportunity to hear from the candidates who have the courage to face them,” he added.