JB Pritzker

Democratic Candidates for Governor Face Off, Flounder Over CTA Pass and Child Care Costs

With less than three weeks to go until the Democratic primary, a fiery exchange was expected as candidates running for governor got together for a key debate Thursday night - and those watching weren't disappointed.

This governor’s race is already the most expensive in Illinois history, and fireworks were expected when the candidates got together at the University of Chicago for a debate co-hosted by the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, WBEZ and Politico.

With JB Pritzker leading in the polls, the others were looking for that breakout moment. 

Pritzker was ready with attacks Thursday night's debate as well. 

So, who won Thursday night? Kennedy's performance was more focused but no knock out punch. Pritzker still has the advantage. If you didn't know better you'd think this was the last chance for these Democrats to convince those undecided - including this pitch for women:

"I've vowed that my cabinet will be majority female," Biss said.

Chris Kennedy kept the controversy alive concerning Pritzker and the Blagojevich taped phone call when Pritzker said Jesse White the least offensive of black candidates.

"What JB says in those tapes--he uses the language--language of racists," Kennedy said.

Pritzker questioned Kennedy's leadership as chairman of the the University of Illinois board of directors.

"Well it's kind of ironic that Mr. Kennedy is raising the issue of universities," Pritzker said. "He raised tuition five times when he was the chairman of the University of Illinois."

But what got the most buzz tonight -- in a test to see how relatable they are -- Biss was asked how much a monthly CTA pass is.

"I would guess it's probably around $35," he said.

Actually a monthly pass is $105.

Pritzker was asked how much child care costs each week.

"About $150 at the low end," he said. The high end? "Probably $400."

Of course the cost of child care can be much more depending on where you live and how many children you have.

Not too many pay $150 a week -- but despite that slip up -- Pritzker had a strong performance -- not an all out win, but Kennedy and Biss did not have a knock out either.

Before the debate, a one-day protest by child-care workers at the YMCA, who are members of the SEIU, brought candidates Biss and Kennedy to the picket lines.

“This is our worst nightmare,” Kennedy said. “To live in a society where we are separating not-for-profits from labor, and crushing them with economic decisions by our governor that are meant to destroy the entire social safety net.”

“If we believe that every family has the right to childcare, let us pay the workforce properly,” Biss added. “Let us treat the workforce with the dignity that they deserve.”

Biss and Kennedy are both seeking to gain ground on frontrunner Pritzker

Take a Look at the Homes of Candidates for Illinois Governor

Pritzker, who is the heir to the Hyatt hotel chain, says he plays no role in management decisions for the company, and will likely face questions about whether the company should distance itself from the NRA.

“I think that all of corporate America should get rid of any relationship they have with the NRA,” he said.

The Illinois Democratic Primary is just 19 days away, and is scheduled for March 20. 

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