Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and his Republican challenger, Bill Brady, met for their first public debate on Wednesday morning. And it took all of a few moments for the gloves to come flying off.
Quinn accused his upstart challenger of heartlessness, saying the people of Illinois needed "common sense, not nonsense." Brady responded by warning that "we can't continue down the path of Gov. Quinn."
Much of the debate centered around government spending. The state of Illinois faced a $13 billion deficit this past year, and is still struggling to pay long-overdue bills to state agencies and contractors.
"As governor, I will not dig a deeper hole," said Brady, who has long been critical of Quinn's spending. The Republican has yet to put forth a detailed plan for balancing the state budget, but he has said that he would cut taxes like the inheritance tax and the gasoline sales tax. Eliminating these sources of revenue would make the state's deficit larger, at least in the short term; Brady argues that the state would see stronger economic growth with lower taxes.
Brady has also stated that government spending should be cut by 10 cents on the dollar. Such cuts would not come close to eliminating the state's deficit -- they would eliminate roughly $5.5 billion of government spending, less than half of the budget gap, even before the elimination of tax revenue. And, as Gov. Quinn pointed out in the debate, the cuts would inevitably result in the shrinking of human services statewide.
Illinoisans "need a governor with a heart - somebody who cares about them," Quinn said. "Sen. Brady wanted to cut human services 50 percent. He didn't have a heart then and he doesn't have a heart now."
Also discussed was the recent extension of the Put Illinois to Work program signed by the governor. Quinn defended the move as vital, arguing that the program has created jobs for 26,000 people state-wide, and that the $75 million in additional spending was only to serve as a bridge until the federal government extended its funding of the program.
But Brady demanded to know where the money was coming from, and why it wasn't being used to pay the state's bills, calling Quinn's move "a dishonest campaign ploy."
A moment of levity came at the end of the debate, when an audience member asked the candidates if they would live in the governor's mansion in Springfield.
Quinn replied, "My clothes are at the governor's mansion. . .even my underwear are there. That's important. . . I think that establishes residency, doesn't it?"
The two have a second debate scheduled for October 14 in Carbondale, and a third on October 20 in Chicago. Independent Scott Lee Cohen, who plans on sinking millions of dollars of his personal fortune into the race, was not invited to today's debate, nor were Green Party candidate Rich Whitney or Libertarian Lex Green.WATCH Quinn discuss his residency at the governor's mansion here: