(The Center Square) – The six Republican candidates looking to get the party's nomination for Illinois governor met on a debate stage for the first time Thursday night. The group spent the hour discussing a variety of issues.
The candidates are Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, former state Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, attorney Max Solomon of Hazel Crest, state Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, businessman Gary Rabine and self-proclaimed outsider Jesse Sullivan of Petersburg. Sullivan took part in the debate remotely because of a positive COVID-19 test.
Thursday's debate was hosted by ABC 7.
The candidates addressed several issues including mass shootings and how each candidate would deal with gun violence in Illinois if elected.
Bailey said it's about helping people with any issues they may be facing.
"We must offer the mental health solutions and help these people to be able to get help and be able to function in life," Bailey said. "That is the only solution we have."
Irvin drew on his experience dealing with crime in Aurora and said it's important for people to support law enforcement officers.
"In the city of Aurora, what we do is have police officers that are school safety officers and we have them in our high schools and our middle and grade schools," Irvin said. "We need to look at this holistically when asking how do we stop crime in Illinois. And we need to focus on supporting the men and women that protect us every day."
The candidates also discussed how to curb the rate of crime happening in the city of Chicago and if they would work with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Rabine said he will be harder on crime in the city and that current leadership is not hard enough on criminals.
"We don't arrest people anymore for trespassing, we are not going to have cash bail anymore in 2023 and on," Rabine said. "We currently have a governor who is the worst on crime that I have ever seen."
Schimpf said he is willing to sit down with Lightfoot and Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx to work something out.
"I have got the credibility to sit down with Mayor Lightfoot and State's Attorney Kim Foxx and talk about solutions," Schimpf said. "I have the credibility to sit down and talk about what we can do because the current status quo isn't working."
Sullivan said he has a plan that begins with getting more officers into the police force.
"We need to fill every single police vacancy, repeal this anti-police bill that J.B. Pritzker signed into law that coddles criminals," Sullivan said. "We also need to recall Kim Foxx, and I will lead those efforts because we need a state's attorney that actually prosecutes crime."
Illinois currently does not have a recall process for state's attorneys.
Another issue up for debate was the state's high tax rates. The candidates gave their ideas for easing the burden on the people of Illinois.
Bailey said he has seen how legislators, including Irvin's running mate state Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Morrisonville, have voted for recent tax increases and said his budget will help Illinois citizens.
"We will have a zero-based budget starting at ground zero," Bailey said. "We will be rebuilding and getting the fat out of the budget because I have seen it for four years and the waste in our budget is immense."
Another issue each candidate was asked about was how they would work with Democrats that are in control of the statehouse.
Solomon said it is not his job to work with Democrats and promised that no Democrat will be able to run for office without a Republican opponent.
"I am not going to stand here and tell you it's going to be great working with the Democrats because they do not have any incentive," Solomon said. "There are 118 state rep seats in the state of Illinois and 59 state senators, and we are going to make sure that every single seat is contested by a Republican candidate."
Bailey said many Democrats share the same views as Republicans and that when he is governor he will bring both sides together.
"When I have the pulpit and when I am able to express that message I think we will have many come along and we will be able to work together," Bailey said.
Earlier this year, a leaked U.S. Supreme Court opinion suggested that the justices could overturn Roe v. Wade, putting the issue of abortion back to individual states.
Irvin said as a lawyer it is irresponsible to comment on the draft opinion.
Rabine said that he is staunchly pro-life and if elected he would vow to make adoption easier for the people of Illinois.
"I want to make adoption so much easier than it is today in Illinois," Rabine said. "I also want to bring back parental notification for abortions, because that is crazy."
Parental notification of abortion was repealed on Wednesday with a law that Pritzker signed late last year.
COVID-19 was one of the more highly debated topics the candidates discussed as arguments broke out between Irvin's handling of COVID regulations and Bailey's lawsuit against Pritzker's executive orders.
Bailey turned and pointed at Irvin and called him a Democrat.
"I want to say something to you, I don't just want to beat you because you are a Democrat but I want to beat you because you are a corrupt Democrat," Bailey said. "You should not become governor."
Irvin fired back at Bailey, claiming he implemented a mask mandate on his farm and only hired migrant workers.
"I won't be lectured by someone like Darren Bailey who had a mask mandate on his own farm where he only hires workers from out of the country because he says Americans do not want to work," Irvin said.
The GOP primary election is on June 28. Early voting has already begun.