Ill. gov hopefuls dodge specifics on budget crisis

DEANNA BELLANDI - Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, left, and Republican challenger Bill Brady debate at Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, Ill. on Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010. (AP Photo/Brian Kersey)
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Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, left, and Republican challenger Bill Brady debate at Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, Ill. on Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010.

The major party candidates for Illinois governor dodged specifics during their latest debate on how they'd address the state's paralyzing budget crisis, focusing instead on exchanging insults about ties to ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, questions of honesty and even using gas chambers to euthanize pets.

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican challenger Bill Brady repeatedly accused the other of being dishonest during a debate Sunday night.

"Governor, you are lying again," Brady snapped at one point, while Quinn accused Brady of hiding his business affairs.

Brady pointed out that when Quinn was lieutenant governor, he vouched for the honesty of Blagojevich, who wound up being kicked out of office and charged with a long list of criminal charges. He also said Quinn, at least as a manager, hasn't measured up to his former running mate.

"I hate to say this, but Gov. Quinn has been worse than Gov. Blagojevich," said Brady, a veteran state senator from Bloomington.

But Brady was put on the defensive over legislation he sponsored earlier this year that would have allowed veterinarians to use gas chambers to euthanize groups of animals, rather than putting them down one by one with injections.

"I don't believe that dogs and cats should be put in a gas chamber, 10 at a time, and executed," Quinn said. "What a bad idea. That's nonsense."

Brady insisted he loves animals, and said he dropped the bill when he realized Quinn would use it to score political points.

When the candidates were pressed on their plans for bringing jobs to Illinois and closing a $13 billion deficit, they offered generalities.

Quinn said he has already slashed government spending and would continue cutting. But he couldn't name any specific services he thought government could no longer afford to provide. He defended his call for increasing income taxes by 33 percent, saying the money would help Illinois schools and improve the job climate.

Brady was also vague on where he would cut spending. His chief example was tightening eligibility for Medicaid so people must prove they qualify. Brady stood by his plan to start by cutting government spending by 10 percent overall, but he said little about how that would work or what services would be hardest hit.

The debate was organized by WBEZ public radio and Elmhurst College, which hosted the debate at its campus in Elmhurst. Organizers did not include other candidates for governor, including Green Party nominee Rich Whitney, who spoke with voters outside the event, and independent Scott Lee Cohen.

Quinn rarely made eye contact with Brady during the debate, even when pointing at him and making allegations. Brady, however, often looked straight at the governor as they clashed on issues, including gay rights and capital punishment.

Brady defended his position against protecting gay people from discrimination or letting gay couples marry. He said his beliefs are his beliefs, and believes the people of Illinois respect that. He said his agenda is about jobs and the budget, not social issues.

Quinn said he believes in tolerance and would oppose any effort to allow gay people be fired for their sexual orientation. Quinn also said he would continue the moratorium on executions. Brady said capital punishment is the law and he would resume execution.

Quinn repeatedly accused Brady of "shady" behavior regarding is real estate development business. He cited a Chicago Tribune article that said Brady voted on legislation that may have helped his business and called Brady "a walking conflict of interest."

Quinn called on Brady to provide full disclosure about his business - but the governor didn't say what information he wanted or what he believed Brady had done wrong.

"There you go again, governor," Brady responded. "You love to personally attack people because you have no platform to solve the people of Illinois' problems."

After the debate, Brady said that if he is elected governor, he would step away from day-to-day management of his business but remain an owner.


Associated Press Writer Christopher Wills contributed to this report.