Candidates For Governor Gang Up On Rauner At A Democratic Forum At NIU

8 hours ago

A majority of the Democratic candidates running for Illinois governor took the stage during a forum Tuesday at Northern Illinois University. The five Democrats had a common target for much of the evening: Incumbent Republican Governor Bruce Rauner.




Let’s start at the end of the night. Community organizer Tio Hardiman certainly got the crowd’s attention with his closing statement with cameos by challengers State Senator Daniel Biss and businessman Chris Kennedy.


“There was an airplane that was about to crash. You have four passengers on that airplane. This has a good ending. Kennedy was on the plane with a young Tio Hardiman who was a Boy Scout. Biss was the pilot. Governor Bruce Rauner was on the plane as well, but you only had three parachutes, okay? Biss took the first parachute and he jumped to safety, leaving two parachutes and three passengers. Bruce Rauner ‘gangstered’ the other parachute and jumped, leaving a young Tio Hardiman, the Boy Scout, and Chris Kennedy. Chris Kennedy said ‘I am going to ask God to help me in this situation.’ I told him, ‘You know, Bruce Rauner didn’t take the parachute, he took my backpack.’ The moral of the story is that Bruce Rauner is going down, people, and we are going to take care of business.”


Outside of that story, the candidates slung most of their mud at Rauner.

Credit Susan Stephens / WNIJ


Naturally, since the forum happened on a college campus, they fielded questions about the number of college students leaving the state. Biss took aim at Rauner, saying, “Most of us think that Bruce Rauner has been a terrible governor. But he has actually been the best governor the University of Wisconsin has ever had. He’s been a great governor for the University of Iowa. It’s unconscionable.  This vicious attack on our universities has to be reversed. Let’s not pretend that’s good enough. Tuition was too high in 2014 too. We need to move to a system of free tuition at public universities and community colleges.”


Hardiman also voiced his support for a free tuition plan.


Regional superintendent Bob Daiber said if elected governor, he would prioritize education funding. “I went to Illinois schools because of their quality,” he said. “Why would anyone send their kids somewhere where they wonder if they’re going to close the next semester? We have to recreate the trust in Illinois residents that our schools are going to be sound. We have to guarantee that for our faculty that they are going to have a job-- that they are not fleeing our universities systems to go somewhere else to get a job. We are going to have quality faculty on those campuses.”


One of the issues where the candidates differed the most was on whether or not to legalize recreational marijuana. Engineer Alex Paterakis showed strong support for legalization, saying, “Let’s be honest. It is going to happen at a national level. It brings jobs. It brings opportunity. It brings tax revenue. I want to lead in something, not debt, not jailed governors. I want to lead in something and that is through the legalization of cannabis and also using hemp production to replace plastics and different things.”


Chris Kennedy was more hesitant with offering his stance after hearing some of the crowd’s support for legalization. Kennedy said, “I think it is really dangerous to embrace a public health hazard simply because you want revenue. That’s what I think. I am not aiming that at anybody. I am cautious.”


NIU Forensics and DeKalb Stands organized the forum. Chicago alderman Ameya Pawar and venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker did not attend the event, but sent along the following campaign statements. Perennial candidate Robert Marshall also did not attend.

J.B. Pritzker


Hello everyone. Thank you to DeKalb Stands and Northern Illinois University for hosting this great event. I’m so sorry I couldn’t be with you tonight. My running mate Juliana Stratton was looking forward to joining, but unfortunately my opponents didn’t want to share a stage with her. I can’t say I blame them. Juliana is an incredible woman and a powerful fighter for Illinois and together we’re going to put Springfield back on the side of working families. That’s why our campaign has released detailed plans to create jobs, expand healthcare, and invest in quality education for every Illinois child. We’re building a statewide, grassroots campaign to fight for our progressive values. We’re so proud to have 23 individual unions, the Illinois AFL-CIO, statewide officials like Susana Mendoza and Jesse White, and progressive leaders like Congressman Luis Gutiérrez standing with us. Together, we’re going to defeat Bruce Rauner and chart a better path forward for Illinois. We hope to have you with us. Learn more at Thank you. 

 Ameya Pawar

Hello.   First   of   all,   thank   you   for   inviting   me   to   participate   in   this   forum.   I   wish   I   could   have   made it   and   I   apologize   for   not   being   here   to   talk   with   you   all   about   my   campaign   for   governor. Running   a   statewide   campaign   as   a   full-time   Chicago   alderman   with   an   18   month   old   daughter, sometimes   -   despite   the   best   intentions   -   I   am   unable   to   participate   in   every   event.

While   my   family   and   I   are   privileged   to   be   able   to   balance   all   our   responsibilities   with   work   and our   families,   many   people   are   not.   That's   why   I’m   running   to   make   it   easier   for   working   families to   get   ahead.   For   too   long,   millionaires   and   billionaires   and   big   corporations   have   had   a stronghold   on   wealth,   power   and   influence.   My   platform,   a   New   Deal   for   Illinois,   aims   to increase   education   funding   and   make   it   more   equitable,   provide   universal   access   to   child   care, put   people   back   to   work   with   good-paying   jobs   through   a   multi-billion   dollar   capital   program,   and reform   our   criminal   justice   system   to   undo   the   injustices   of   a   system   that   unfairly   targets   people of   color,   the   poor   and   the   mentally   ill.

If   you   want   to   learn   more   about   me   and   the   issues   I   care   about,   please   go   to And   if   you   have   any   questions   or   want   to   get   involved   with   my   campaign,   just   send   a   message on   Facebook   and   we’ll   get   back   to   you. Thank you. 

The Forum, unedited

Candidates at the Democratic Gubernatorial Forum in DeKalb were given one minute to introduce themselves to the voters, then one minute to answer each question in a series of themed issues, gathered by written card from the audience. They were allowed ninety seconds for closing statements.  




State finances

Jobs & the economy


Public health and safety

What else?

Closing statements

WNIJ's Susan Stephens contributed to this report.