Campaign strategists for both candidates agree that this primary vote could turn on the strength of the African-American turnout, especially if that vote should swing dramatically one way or another.
Recent polls suggest black voters divided evenly between Ill. Comprtoller Dan Hynes and incumbent Governor Pat Quinn. That could change given the reaction to a controversial ad put up by the Dan Hynes campaign. So the battle lines were clear when they arrived at WVON on Thursday.
Dan Hynes should get credit for showing up. The moderator, Cliff Kelly, is an unabashed supporter of Pat Quinn. The governor made it clear early on that he knows and has been endorsed by the vast majority of African-American politicians.
"Just in the studio when I came in, I saw Congressman Danny Davis, he supports me, as well as Congressman Bobby Rush, as well as our secretary of state Jesse White. And Emil Jones, President Jones was with me this morning," said Quinn.
"Is anybody keeping track of how many names the governor drops. I think we're breaking a record," said Hynes. "I said from the beginning, this is going to be about what people want for the future, their future. People are going to rise up and demand change."
Outside the radio station, about a dozen people holding Hynes yard signs stood along 87th street. An organizer said the demonstrators were paid by the Hynes campaign.
The hour-long debate, interrupted several times for commercials, had its most contentious moments of the controversial Hynes ad in which the late Mayor Harold Washington during a 22-year-old interview questioned the competence of Pat Quinn.
"We're not trying to be divisive. We presented the words of Mayor Harold Washington, which are directly relevant to the fact that the governor today has allowed our problems to get worse."
"He says lousy things about me. But don't pay attention to false, negative attacks. I'm counting on you," said Quinn.
Despite the high stakes in the end, the debate was decidedly more civil than other encounters between the two men. It is believed to be the last face-to-face debate before Tuesday's primary election.