GOP candidates for IL governor square off at debate

February 27, 2014 (CHICAGO)

Watch the debate on-demand: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Actually, early voters may go to the polls as soon as March 3rd-- next Monday-- to cast ballots in the primary election. And that's what made this debate among the Republican candidates for governor so important.

In his opening statement, Treasurer Dan Rutherford acknowledged his run for governor was struggling because of a former employee's lawsuit alleging sexual harassment.

"These allegations are false and I also know candidly how tough this has made my campaign," said Rutherford.

When asked to comment on Rutherford's weaknesses as a possible general election candidate, businessman Bruce Rauner would not bite.

"I'm not going to answer that question directly," said Rauner. "I've worked very hard in the race not to criticize my Republican opponents."

But Senator Kirk Dillard, when asked to explain why multi-millionaire Rauner cannot win in the fall, did not hold back.

"Mr. Rauner has more business associates from Missouri and Michigan in a federal penitentiary than we do governors and that should be a red flag that he is unelectable," said Sen. Dillard.

Then Senator Bill Brady speared Dillard, who six years ago made a campaign ad for a certain Democrat.

"Senator Dillard's problem is, starts with his ad for Barack Obama. He's not a reliable Republican," said Sen. Brady.

Brady and Dillard tag teamed Rauner with familiar allegations surrounding controversial business deals, and Rauner's friendly relationship with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

"He's come out to our ranch in Montana to go fishing," said Rauner. "The attacks won't stick cause down underneath there's nothing there. This is spin, this is mudslinging."

Treasurer Rutherford left ABC7 without holding a post-debate news conference, despite his agreement with the League of Women voters that he would do so.

"Obviously his candidacy is troubled and he's going to have to answer to the League why he didn't stick around," said Sen. Dillard.

Rutherford has not indicated if or when he might re schedule television advertising which he pulled a couple of weeks ago. Meanwhile, Senators Dillard and Brady say they'll begin television ads during the last three weeks of the campaign.

Mr. Rauner of course has already spent millions of television during the past several months.

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