Against the patriotic backdrop of replica Roman columns bathed in blue and red lights, the Republican candidates running for governor of Illinois squared off on March 4 in a lively forum moderated by veteran Chicago journalist Carol Marin at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts.
More than 300 University of Chicago students and community members participated in the event co-sponsored by NBC 5 Chicago, UChicago’s Institute of Politics and the Harris School of Public Policy.
During an hour-long session broadcast live on NBC 5, followed by a 30-minute Q&A segment with the audience that streamed live online, Bill Brady, Kirk Dillard, Bruce Rauner and Dan Rutherford exchanged ideas and barbs on issues ranging from minimum wage to charter schools to same-sex marriage.
“We are honored and excited to host these candidates, one of whom could be the next governor of Illinois,” said David Axelrod, the inaugural director of the Institute of Politics. “For our students, it’s a unique chance to witness firsthand one of the great rites of democracy, in a free and open forum. We hope to establish the University of Chicago and IOP as a regular home for such events.”
Chicago Harris Dean Colm O’Muircheartaigh said, “Our commitment at Chicago Harris to evidence-based argument, broad dialogue and unfettered exchange of ideas makes this the perfect forum for candidates to present themselves.”
For Yangyang Cheng, who grew up in China with no experience of free elections, attending the event carried a special significance.
“I felt like I was witnessing democracy in action at ground zero,” said Cheng, a PhD candidate in Physics and an IOP student executive board member.
In the wake of recent corruption scandals involving past Illinois governors, Cheng asked the candidates for their views on how to combat corruption in Springfield.
“To me, the election process should not be viewed as a winner-take-all, zero-sum game,” she said afterward. “By running and introducing new ideas to voters, the candidates are making a positive contribution to the democratic process.”