Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner
Our governor, Bruce Rauner, is a coward.
How else can we describe a man who refuses to debate his opponent?
Last month, journalists in Jacksonville tried to pin the governor down on whether he would debate his Republican opponent, state Rep. Jeanne Ives.
He was asked three times and he refused to answer.
It’s not a way of projecting yourself as a man of resolve. He refused to answer a yes or no question.
The University of Illinois at Springfield, WMAY radio and the State Journal-Register tried to organize a GOP debate for next month, but according to the newspaper Rauner has indicated he won’t go.
I emailed Rauner’s campaign spokesman Justin Giorgio to find out why the governor is laying low. He did not respond to multiple emails.
Of course, Rauner doesn’t likely see himself as a coward. He’s probably been advised not to give his opponent an opportunity for free publicity since he is leading her in the polls.
But there is a problem with that contention. When there is no debate, the loser isn’t Jeanne Ives. The losers are the voters.
They deserve to know where their candidates stand on the issues. When Rauner thumbs his nose at debating the person he is running against, he is showing contempt not just for his opponent but for the process.
Rauner has called Ives a “fringe candidate.” Perhaps he thinks she is unworthy to be in the same forum with a sitting governor.
Well, I know Ives and I respect her. She has six years of service in the Illinois General Assembly under her belt. That’s six more years of elected public service than Rauner had when he was running for governor four years ago. So, in that sense, she is less of a “fringe candidate” than when the governor first ran.
Yes, Ives is conservative on both social and economic issues. But so are many of the GOP’s primary voters.
Perhaps the governor is talking about money. He is way ahead of her in that area. He donated $50 million to his own campaign fund as a way of intimidating any would-be opponents from running. The only GOP candidate to step forward to challenge him was Ives. She has raised about $500,000.
So, if the criteria for determining whether someone is worthy of being debated is how much money someone has raised, why have an election?
We could hold an auction instead.
Since Rauner’s campaign won’t say why he won’t debate, I asked Ives why she thinks the governor is avoiding facing her.
“Bruce Rauner is not prepared to have a substantive policy discussion with me. There is much he has to answer for during his four years in office. He’s just afraid to debate a woman on the issues.”
Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse journalist. He works as a freelance reporter in the Springfield area and produces the podcast Suspect Convictions. He can be reached at ScottReeder1965@gmail.com.