Six of the Democratic candidates for governor clashed in a heated meeting before the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board on Wednesday.
The candidates exchanged rhetorical barbs over property tax appeals, support of House Speaker Mike Madigan, and the millions of dollars that are poised to turn the race into the most expensive campaign in the United States.
Candidate Daniel Biss blasted frontrunners J.B. Pritzker and Chris Kennedy, saying that they both gamed the property tax system to get extra money.
“When you again and again use the system to decrease your own property taxes, when you rip the toilets out of your mansion to decrease your property tax, that doesn’t take away money from schools,” Biss said. “That just drives up my property tax bill.”
Kennedy, whom Pritzker attacked for using “existing property tax laws and connected lawyers” to get a tax break on his Wolf Point Project, went after the businessman for his refusal to distance himself from Madigan and Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios.
“Pritzker’s really there to protect the status quo,” Kennedy said. “People like Mike Madigan and Joe Berrios.”
All of the candidates were asked about the controversial figures, as Madigan has featured prominently in Republican attack ads and Berrios has come under scrutiny for his office’s reported failures to properly assess thousands of Cook County properties.
“The reality is that we would have to work with Mike Madigan as long as he’s in that position,” candidate Tio Hardiman said. “I don’t agree with Mike Madigan though.”
While the candidates spent a good amount of time drawing distinctions between their records and those of their opponents, they also directed plenty of criticism at Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner.
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“We have to beat Bruce Rauner and nominate someone who doesn’t have the connections to these unpopular politicians,” Biss said. “It’s a risk the Democrats can’t afford to take.’
The subject of plenty of criticism himself, Pritzker tried to issue a call to Democrats to unite against Rauner, who has been ranked as one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the next election cycle.
“I think we ought to be focusing on Bruce Rauner,” he said. “That’s what every one of these Democrats ought to be doing. The failings of this governor are immense.”