CHICAGO - The race of Illinois governor ramped up Tuesday night as all six Democratic candidates faced off in their first televised debate of the campaign.
When the issue of House Speaker Michael Madigan and Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios came up, the sparks started to fly between candidates. The forum at one point turned into a shouting match.
It was a question to JB Pritzker about whether his reluctance to criticize Madigan and Berrios was due to his benefitting from them that turned a forum with decorum into a finger-pointing shouting match between Pritzker and Daniel Biss.
"I'm in favor of legislative leader term limits so that we don't have people serving if office for tens and tens of years," Pritzker said.
But when he was asked if he agreed with Governor Bruce Rauner on term limits, he said, "I am not in favor of term limits for everybody in the legislature."
"I think we just heard a question completely dodged," Biss said.
Things got contentious after Biss fired back about Pritzker's waffling support in 2012 for Barack Obama's reelection.
"Democrats support Democrats. But I, as a Democrat, also fight to improve the party and reform the party," Biss said.
After a yelling match ensued, the moderator asked other candidates to weigh in.
"If we want to change Illinois we've got to change the leadership, and we've got to quit talking about Mike Madigan and we got to quit talking about Joe Berrios, we got to talk about JB Pritzker and Rod Blagojevich but we got to get down to business," said candidate Bob Daiber.
"Yeah, I just want to say this quickly, that's why people should vote for Tio Hardiman and Patricia Avery, because I have nothing to do with this mess," said candidate Tio Hardiman.
"Mr. Pritzker is unelectable, there's just too many negatives," said candidate Bob Marshall.
Each candidate was later asked to say one good thing about the other. Only Chris Kennedy struggled.
"I mean I'm challenged in this election because I think that as Democrats we believe government can be our ally and when JB emerges as the poster child of all that's wrong with the corrupt system in our state it's difficult for me to heap praise on him," Kennedy said.
Afterwards, Kennedy said he regretted his response and apologized to Pritzker. Both Pritzker and Biss said after the forum that they felt being attacked was a good thing.
Pritzker postulated that maybe it meant his opponents feel they need to make up some ground. Biss wondered what Pritzker's own polling data showed, suggesting maybe it wasn't so good.