Democratic gubernatorial candidates discuss suburban businesses in forum

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Democratic candidates in the race for Illinois governor squared off Wednesday in a forum hosted by ABC 7, the Daily Herald and the Daily Herald Business Ledger.

Candidates were asked about business issues facing the suburbs of Illinois. ABC 7's political reporter Craig Wall and the Daily Herald's deputy opinion editor Jim Slusher moderated.

The candidates who participated included State Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston, Madison County Superintendent Bob Daiber of Marine, Chicago activist Tio Hardiman, Kenilworth businessman Chris Kennedy, Vernon Hills business owner Alexander Paterakis and Chicago businessman J.B. Pritzker.

Biss kicked off the introductions.

"What we need is an effort to unite people around the state to build progressive economic policies," said Biss.

Biss said he never planned to run for governor, but said the state of Illinois and the United States compelled him to.

Paterakis talked about the problem of attracting companies and jobs to Illinois.

"We need to take New York's lead and invest in people," he said. "What New York did, they said certain industries: manufacturing, high-technology, we're going to give you a tax levy for you first, your toughest years, your first two or three years, as long as you stay in the state an equal amount of time."

Hardiman agreed, saying small businesses need incentives to stay viable. He also advocated for a $15 minimum wage.

"I also plan to meet with a lot of these Fortune 500 companies," said Hardiman. "If they're doing so good in their business, why not look out for your employees?"

But how do you attract companies to a state that can't settle its debts? Daiber said the next administration needs to issue bonds to settle the state's unpaid bills within 90 days of taking office.

"If we're going to improve our bond rating as a state, if we're going to attract business as a state, we've got to get our house in order," Daiber said.

Kennedy and Pritzker have name recognition, and bank accounts big enough to ensure their message stays on the airwaves. Both insist they are the party's best chance for victory in a general election, and Illinois' best advocate in the power struggle with House Speaker Michael Madigan.

"He needs to separate the function of Speaker of the House, as an elected official and the head of the party, and he should not have an outside job that's adverse to the interest of the body he was elected to serve," said Kennedy.

"I'll work with the speaker to do the things that I think are right for the people of Illinois, but I won't work for the speaker," said Pritzker.
The forum took place from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at Victoria in the Park at Mount Prospect. ABC 7 streamed the event live on, the abc7chicago app and on Facebook.

The primary election takes place on March 20, 2018.

This event was sponsored by the Lake County Federation of Teachers, Local 504.
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