Monday night the republican candidates faced off in a debate you saw live right here on TriStateHomePage. Eyewitness News partnered with our Nexstar sister stations in Illinois to host the debate. From pension reform, to state infrastructure, and economic border wars with neighboring states -- a variety of contentious topics were covered during the debate.
One face was noticeably absent. Three of the four GOP gubernatorial candidates attended. Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford, State Senator Kirk Dillard and State Senator Bill Brady were all at the debate. Bruce Rauner, the republican businessman projected to be ahead in recent primary polls, declined multiple invitations to attend the debate. The move opened up the door for a slew of mudslinging from his opponents.
"Bruce Rauner, he's not even here tonight and he wasn't in Peoria last night with us. You know Bruce Rauner has spent million of dollars on slick TV ads, but like his watch -- talk is cheap," said Dillard.
"My two senator friends here, we're here," said Rutherford. "We've got other debates this week just like everyone else does, but when you've got four people running and the one guy who's crafting his own message through paid media rather than sitting here in the hot searing spotlights -- I think that is a disservice to the people of central Illinois."
The debate was hosted in Champaign, Illinois. We asked Rauner why he chose not to participate in the debate. He said it's because he's already been debating all over the state of Illinois.
Watch the above video for a wrap on the debate from Eyewitness News Lead Political Reporter Kayla Moody.