Illinois political expert weighs in on first gubernatorial debate

Published: Oct. 10, 2022 at 6:33 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - There is less than a month left before the Illinois gubernatorial election. People across the state had the opportunity to see the candidates go head-to-head during the first televised debate last week. But how much can debate performance sway your vote?

Springfield political observer Kent Redfield said Monday that the debate likely didn’t help people who are undecided between Gov. JB Pritzker and Sen. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia). The professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois-Springfield said Pritzker and Bailey were able to use their greatest hits with talking points about abortion, crime and the state’s economy.

While core supporters may enjoy seeing those talking points during a debate, Redfield said those quotes may not help swing or independent voters. He argues that Pritzker should spend more time explaining why the state would continue to improve under his leadership. Redfield said the downstate lawmaker could capitalize on what he would change to address problems he has with the incumbent.

“Honestly, Ronald Reagan, when he asked that famous question, ‘Are you better off now than you were four years ago?’ That’s actually a very good way for voters to think about things,” Redfield said.

He also explained that Pritzker and Bailey should try to focus their energy on the opening and closing statements instead of spending too much time arguing and interrupting each other. Redfield noted that debates should include substance instead of candidates coming across as too aggressive. While some believe that Bailey won the first debate, others feel that he tried to turn the forum into a rally with supporters in the crowd cheering and booing.

Redfield wants to see Bailey and Pritzker focus more on answering questions about their policies and promises to residents during the next debate. He feels that neither candidate had an outstanding appearance during the debate at Illinois State University. Redfield also found it odd that Bailey tried to ask Pritzker questions of his own. The Springfield native said it’s always better to let the moderators control the questions and give candidates some ability to go back and forth so viewers can get clarity.

“It’s not just dueling sound bites,” Redfield said. “That really doesn’t advance anyone’s understanding both what the problems are and then what the candidates would do about them.”

Redfield knows that everyone should expect that both candidates will be asked again what they would change in the SAFE-T Act. While Pritzker has not given a specific answer on what he would like to see amended in the Pretrial Fairness Act portion of the law, Redfield said that may be a tactic so the governor doesn’t give away his negotiating position.

Although, Redfield said asking for specific details is fair game for any candidate during a debate. He hopes they both spend more time preparing before the debate on Oct. 18. Redfield wished there were regional debates that could help voters choose their favorite candidate.

“It would be nice to see a debate in Carbondale with moderators and news media that live there. They should have one in Springfield and maybe a debate in Quincy and the Metro East,” Redfield said. “As a downstater, I want to know what’s going on with downstate schools and downstate taxes. That’s a very different world from the Chicago area. It’s unfortunate that we don’t have more debates and that we don’t adopt a structure that will allow candidates and voters to get a regional perspective there.”

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