Rep. candidates for governor to debate on ABC7

January 13, 2010 4:58:15 PM PST
ABC7 is hosting a debate for the Republican candidates in the race for governor in Illinois Wednesday night.For their own reasons, two of the candidates in the Republican primary have tried to separate themselves from the rest of the field. And during the debate viewers should expect those two to have bulls eyes on their foreheads.

"The voters had enough trust to elect me twice to statewide office," said Jim Ryan.

Ryan served two terms as Illinois attorney general and lost the 2002 general election race for governor to Rod Blagojevich. His statewide name recognition has not only driven up his pre-election poll numbers. It's made him a primary campaign target for his six opponents.

"I question whether Jim Ryan can stand up to the scrutiny of Stuart Levine," said State Sen. Bill Brady.

Ryan is asked repeatedly to explain his over 30 years-long relationship with Stuart Levine, a co-schemer with political crook Tony Rezko. Illegal drug user Levine--who told a federal jury he'd been a criminal "every day of his adult life"-- donated nearly $800,000 to Ryan's various campaigns.

"Jim Ryan's a nice guy, can't win. He's got a running mate in this election and his name is Stuart Levine," said Adam Andrzejewski.

All seven candidates oppose an income tax increase and each insists he'll be best tax increase resister.

"I have no designs to raise taxes. In fact, I'd submit I'm the best candidate to keep Illinois from ever needing a tax increase," said State Sen. Kirk Dillard.

The biggest differences among the seven center on who has the best chance of beating the Democrats in the fall.

"If we are going to win in the fall, we have to nominate a moderate Republican," said Bob Schillerstrom.

The other target in the field is multi-millionaire businessman and former state party chairman Andy McKenna who has spent more on television ads than the rest of the candidates combined.

McKenna has apologized for using party resources for personal politics during his chairmanship. And today he stands accused of violating a new state law that prohibits accepting campaign contributions from individuals who do more than $50,000 a year in state business.

"If the Republican party doesn't kinda see fit to remove to mask from Mr. McKenna and understand that this is an insider playing the same insider game, we are going to be in real trouble come November," said Dan Proft.