By ANDREW HENSEL for the Illinois Radio Network
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (IRN) — Four of the six candidates vying for the Illinois Republican nomination for governor met for the final time to debate before Tuesday’s primary election.
Former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, self-proclaimed outsider Jesse Sullivan, state Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, and businessman Gary Rabine all met to answer questions about their candidacies.
Hazel Crest attorney Max Solomon and Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin were the candidates not in attendance.
The debate featured questions about COVID-19, school policy, and how each candidate would approach bipartisanship.
The winner of the primary election is likely to face incumbent Gov. J.B. Pritzker in the November election. Pritzker, the billionaire heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, faces a relatively unknown challenger in the Democratic primary.
Pritzker defeated one-term Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2018.
While in office, Rauner faced significant obstacles pushing his agenda in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly.
The GOP candidates on Thursday were asked what they would do to avoid similar obstacles as Rauner while working with Democrats on the state’s spending priorities and other legislative actions.
Bailey leaned on his experience as a lawmaker in the General Assembly and the relationships he has formed.
“After serving two years in the House, and two years in the Senate, I am familiar with the workings of both of the chambers, and I’m familiar with all of the people,” Bailey said. “Communication is a big part of this.”
Sullivan, a venture capitalist, said if elected he will use the governor’s executive authority to veto any legislation he feels hurts Illinoians.
“We need to work with the legislature and that’s why veto power matters so much, that’s why I will veto any new tax increase that comes across my desk,” Sullivan said. “Then we need to prioritize what actually is important.”
Schimpf said the best way to overcome that issue is by defeating Democrats in November.
“We need a candidate that can unite the Republican Party,” Schimpf said. “We need to run on issues that are going to bring our state together and we need to put a thumping to the Democrats at the ballot box this November.”
Rabine said he will take the same leadership approach he has taken with his own companies.
“In my opinion, we need someone who can inspire people to go somewhere they have never gone before, I call that a moonshot,” Rabine said. “In my business, we continuously have moonshots that take us all to places we’ve never been before, when we do this we don’t ask if you’re a Republican or a Democrat because we do not care.”
Thursday’s was the final debate before Tuesday’s primary election. Recent polling shows Bailey with a slight lead over Irvin and Sullivan, though nearly 30% remained undecided.