Rauner, Pritzker Face Off in Southern Illinois Forum

The candidates for Illinois governor came face-to-face Wednesday for the first time since an exclusive NBC News-Marist poll released the day before.

It shows JB Pritzker with a double digit lead: 46 percent to Gov. Bruce Rauner's 30 percent.

The candidates took part in a forum downstate and they pulled no punches.

Both Pritzker and Rauner worked to gain some fertile ground with farmers at an agriculture forum in Normal, with 10 weeks to go before Election Day.

Rauner wasted no time taking aim at his opponent.

“Higher taxes and more corruption which is what Madigan and my challenger are really part of,” he said.

He also embraced several Trump administration policies.

“The White House and Congress cut the tax burden, removed the red tape on businesses, fought unfair trade deals," he said. "We need to do the exact same thing for the state of Illinois.”

He even incorporated a familiar phrase.

“This is the greatest place on earth, Illinois, and we’re going to make it great again,” Rauner said.

Democratic challenger Pritzker said Rauner has made things worse.

“He said that he would lower property taxes, invest heavily in education, technology in our schools, bring vocational training back, he hasn’t delivered,” he said.

Pritzker, pointed to cuts in agriculture programs, and higher education during the three-year budget crisis and condemning federal policies he says has hurt the state.

“I'm going to stand up and fight back against the tariffs that hurt farmers, you’re losing longstanding customers,” he said.

An NBC news-Marist poll shows Rauner losing voters’ confidence.

The governor acknowledged this section of the state could be key to a turnaround.

"I won every county but Cook County, and still got 50 percent of the state," he said. "Every vote here matters."

Both candidates pledged to reform property taxes, invest in education and infrastructure and grow the state's economy.

NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago will host a gubernatorial forum on Sept. 20.

Both Pritzker and Rauner say they plan to take part.

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