CHICAGO — Illinois' major party candidates for governor highlighted their stark differences on social issues during a debate Wednesday night while also playing loose with some facts and bringing up unsavory characters from both political parties.
Republican state Sen. Bill Brady defended his opposition to abortion and gay marriage, and accused Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn of using social issues to fragment the state.
"These issues shouldn't be used to divide Illinois, many people agree with me on these issues," Brady said.
Quinn, who supports civil unions but not gay marriage, said people have "fundamental rights" and blasted Brady for voting against protecting gay people from discrimination in employment and housing.
"Now that's just plain wrong," the governor said.
Brady and Quinn also tried to make one another look untrustworthy by tying each other to Illinois' convicted former governors.
Brady repeatedly linked Quinn to ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich, noting Quinn was his lieutenant governor. Blagojevich, a Democrat, was convicted in August of lying to the FBI and faces retrial on corruption charges. He had been accused of trying to sell an appointment to President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat.
"We need a governor unlike Gov. Blagojevich and Quinn who will take the high road and support the people of Illinois and not the insiders," said Brady, who also defended his fundraising ties to some of Blagojevich's former allies.
Quinn chastised Brady for supporting former Republican Gov. George Ryan, who's in prison on corruption charges. Ryan, who was convicted of racketeering, preceded Blagojevich as governor.
"When it came to George Ryan, Sen. Brady was not there for the public," said Quinn, adding that Brady supported former President George W. Bush, who Quinn blamed for the national recession.
While debating the issues, they at times veered from the facts.
Brady claimed that Quinn operates "a government of secrecy" and won't provide details about state spending. But the Brady campaign has not provided examples of the information it claims has been denied by the governor's administration, and Quinn's office has said Brady hasn't asked for any budget data.
Plenty of information about state spending is publicly available. The Legislature and the state comptroller also put out detailed analyses, and outside groups routinely review governors' spending plans.
Quinn alleged that Brady wants to see property taxes rise, a claim that Brady flatly rejected. But neither is completely accurate.
Over the summer, Brady said his spending plan would cut school funding and schools would see a natural increase in property taxes. But calling for higher property taxes certainly isn't part of Brady's platform, and more money from property taxes would come if the economy improves and property values rise.
Quinn insisted Brady voted against cutting his own pay, suggesting there was a yes-or-no vote on legislative salaries and Brady voted to keep his full paycheck. But the salary measure was one small piece of a huge budget bill that Republicans opposed because of concerns that it spent too much. There was no vote specifically on salaries.
The candidates also bickered over the Illinois economy, with Quinn pointing to signs of growth and Brady saying jobs are disappearing.
Job statistics are complex, and people can draw contradictory pictures by talking about percentages instead of hard numbers or by looking at one period of time while ignoring another.
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the preliminary unemployment rate for August was 10.1 percent. That's down from 11.3 percent in January and from the 10.6 rate in August of last year.
The bureau said 671,000 Illinoisans were looking for work in August, down by 73,000 from January and down 31,000 from August of last year.
The debate was hosted by the League of Women Voters of Illinois. The event didn't include Libertarian candidate Lex Green or the Green Party's Rich Whitney, who has protested being excluded from gubernatorial debates.
Associated Press Writer Christopher Wills contributed to this report from Springfield.
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