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Illinois candidates focus on crime during governor's debate

Pritzker called out his opponent about opposite stances on what he could do as governor while Bailey continually vowed to overturn the Pritzker-approved SAFE-T Act, a criminal justice system overhaul that attempts to thwart excessive force by police yet ends cash bail for violent criminal suspects.
Illinois candidates focus on crime during governor's debate
Incumbent Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (D-Chicago) faced off for the final time against Illinois State Senator Darren Bailey (R-Xenia) at Tuesday's Nexstar-sponsored debate night in in the 2022 Illinois Gubernatorial Election.

By JOHN O'CONNOR | AP Political Writer

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Crime in Chicago generated the most heat in the debate for Illinois governor Tuesday, with Republican challenger Darren Bailey suggesting that fighting lawlessness should start outside the city — with a tighter U.S.-Mexican border and an end to Chicago's “sanctuary city” status.

After a rough-and-tumble encounter Oct. 6 in which each spent time tossing claims and counterclaims of “liar" at the other, the second and final Nexstar-sponsored debate continued the less-than-stately decorum while breaking little new ground with three weeks before the Nov. 8 election.

One area where Bailey pushed further than before was suggesting that crime has worsened in Chicago partly because of lax enforcement of undocumented immigration and the sanctuary city status Chicago has adopted which has made it a target in recent weeks for Texas to ship out asylum-seekers, in the U.S. legally, because of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's dispute with President Joe Biden.

“We need to deal with our southern border and we need to get that under control and stop the inflow of illegal activity because what that is bringing, it’s bringing gang violence, it’s bringing sex trafficking, it’s bringing drug trafficking,” Bailey said. “It’s a mess.”

Despite talking over each other regularly, neither Pritzker nor the moderators pressed Bailey on that statement.

Bailey, a 56-year-old state senator and farmer from the southern Illinois town of Xenia, 96 miles (154 kilometers) east of St. Louis, has like many Republicans nationally this fall pounded crime in campaigns. Bailey has fielded criticism for his oft-criticized nickname for Chicago, “hellhole." The Republican on Tuesday proposed a new moniker.

“I’m gonna call it ‘Pritzkerville’ because every one of Gov. Pritzker's extreme policies are destroying the city,” Bailey said. “Out-of-control crime, devastated education, the fact that corporations are packing up and leaving every day. Pritzkerville fits nicely because Gov. Pritzker, it's time for him to own it.”

Pritzker blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for a rise in crime in Chicago and nationally. When asked about last weekend's 31 shooting victims, with eight deaths despite the investments he's boasted, the 57-year-old billionaire equity investor and philanthropist from Chicago went on defense.

“I’m the first governor in literally nine years to fund the gang crime witness-protection program, because we need to fight against gangs ...," Pritzker said. “We’ve increased the number of state police, our state-of-the-art crime labs are actually doing DNA evidence evaluation so that we can reduce crime. If you want to reduce crime, you got to solve crime. And all the things that we’ve invested in over the last four years have been aimed exactly at that.”

Pritzker is favored for a second term and Bailey isn't in the same stratosphere in terms of campaign cash. At the end of the Sept. 30 quarterly reporting period, Pritzker had $42.3 million on hand after raising $80.8 million during the period and spending $38.5 million.

Bailey reported $767,000 in the bank after raising $2 million during the period and spending $1.6 million.

Bailey repeated his offer to Pritzker to sign a pledge that he will serve a full term if elected, a swipe at Pritzker's presidential overtures, which Pritzker ignored as he did in the first debate. The rivals traded shots over education, teacher shortages, the troubled Department of Children and Family Services, and which between them was too far to the left or right wings to be governor of Illinois.

Pritzker called his opponent out on what he decreed were opposite stances on what he could do as governor on separate issues. Bailey continually vows to overturn the Pritzker-approved SAFE-T Act, a criminal justice system overhaul that attempts to thwart excessive force by police, sets new standards for policing — including expanding the use of body cameras — and ends the use of cash bail for violent criminal suspects.

But an expected supermajority control of the General Assembly by Democrats makes that unlikely. That's the very reason Bailey says those who oppose his views on restrictions on abortion should not fear he will change anything after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last spring — he wouldn't be able to get it through the Democratic legislature.

“He’s too conservative for Illinois,” Pritzker said. “He is frankly too extreme for Illinois.”

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