Pritzker Announces Debate Schedule – Without Rauner’s Confirmation

The schedule includes two Chicago-area events and one in central Illinois

What to Know

  • The first debate is on Sept. 20, hosted by NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago with the Union League of Chicago and the Chicago Urban League
  • Pritzker included an event in Quincy, the central Illinois city where Legionnaires' disease killed 13 residents of a state-run veterans home
  • Rauner has not officially agreed to participate in the three debates, but a spokesman said he "looks forward to participating"

Democratic candidate for Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker announced plans Thursday to debate incumbent GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner ahead of the general election in November.

But there's already a debate brewing over those debates - as Rauner did not agree to the schedule prior to Pritzker's announcement, which would be standard procedure in a typical election cycle.

The battle of the billionaires is no typical election, however, with both candidates having already spent millions of dollars to attack one another - hitting the airwaves with negative ads even before winning their respective primaries. [[466644833, C]]

Thursday's announcement served as a different kind of an attack from Pritzker, putting public pressure on debate-averse Rauner to participate in three events in the fall. 

Pritzker's schedule included two debates in Chicago - the first on Sept. 20, hosted by NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago, in partnership with the Union League of Chicago and the Chicago Urban League - and one debate in Quincy, adding another element to the battle.

Quincy is the central Illinois city where an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease at the Quincy veterans home killed at least 13 residents and sickened dozens more since 2015.

Rauner's response to the crisis at the state-run facility has been criticized as slow and inadequate, resulting in the resignation of his director of veterans' affairs and sparking an investigation.

Pritzker has capitalized on that criticism in his campaign, and selecting Quincy as the location for the third debate was no coincidence as Rauner will likely face a tough crowd seeking answers. [[480710181, C]]

Of note, the Quincy debate is the only one the billionaire Hyatt heir included outside the Chicago area in his schedule - avoiding both southern Illinois, as well as the Springfield-Decatur-Champaign market which candidates typically try to hit. Coverage from WCIA has been unfavorable to Pritzker at times, as the only television station in Springfield broke a story in January on his use of offshore accounts, dominating the political news cycle in Illinois.

Rauner has shied away from debates in the past, participating in just one face-to-face appearance with his conservative challenger in the Republican primary, state Rep. Jeanne Ives. The two faced off in a heated endorsement session before the Chicago Tribune editorial board, with Ives on the attack - likely a preview of the demeanor at debates to come, should Rauner agree to participate.

Rauner has not confirmed that he will take part in any of the three specific events Pritzker announced, but a spokesman for his campaign said in a statement Thursday that he "looks forward to participating in debates to talk about how JB Pritzker is wrong on taxes, corruption, and Mike Madigan."

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