(The Center Square) – Crime, COVID-19 policies, education and more were the focus of the first Illinois gubernatorial debate among Republican candidates. There was also attention paid to an empty stool for a candidate who did not attend.
The Central Illinois Gubernatorial Candidate Forum was hosted by the Tazewell County Republicans in partnership with the Peoria County and Woodford County GOP Monday night. Five of the six candidates certified for the Republican ballot attended.
On crime, businessman Gary Rabine targeted Illinois’ policies on immigration enforcement and pushed to repeal the Democrats’ SAFE-T Act.
“We gotta be able to also recall a Kim Foxx or any crazy communist state’s attorney,” Rabine said.
State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, laid out what his first action would be in an effort to restore trust among parents in the state’s public education system.
“My first call is going to be to [State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala] and I’m going to tell her ‘you’re fired,’” Bailey said.
On COVID-19 policies, entrepreneur Jesse Sullivan said Gov. J.B. Pritzker had it wrong while Florida Gov. Ron Desantis had it right.
“If you want to know my governing philosophy, it’s this: take power away from these corrupt, career insider politicians and give it back to the people of Illinois,” Sullivan said.
Former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, said as a former member of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, he knows how to block executive overreach, but that would require a change in law he proposes as part of his pillar.
“Emergency administrative regulation … do not become effective unless there are seven affirmative yes votes from JCAR,” Schmipf proposed. “That would make it much harder for J.B. Pritzker to rule by executive order.”
Max Solomon, who immigrated to the United States from Africa 30 years ago and is now a lawyer, said he will work to expand the Republican Party.
“We’ve given up,” Solomon said. “We’ve given up on Cook County. We’ve given up on a lot of these seats. … I’m tired of going into the ballot box or ballot booth to vote and there’s no candidate for the Republican Party. We’re going to change that.”
Solomon also said one of his main issues is to bring about constitutional pension reform to lower pension costs.
Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin was not present at the forum. His campaign said he had a prior engagement.
“As a former prosecutor who put violent criminals behind bars, a mayor who cut spending to lower taxes and the only Republican candidate for governor to take on Mike Madigan and win, Mayor Irvin looks forward to sharing the stage with his opponents which will prove he is the best candidate to roll back the crime, corruption and high taxes we’ve seen under J.B. Pritzker,” Irvin campaign spokesperson Eleni Demertzis said.
Irvin’s absence didn’t keep the other Republican candidates from mocking an empty stool that forum organizers put on the state for Irvin.