Debate debate: J.B. Pritzker announces three face-offs, Gov. Rauner won’t commit

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J.B. Pritzker and Gov. Bruce Rauner | Sun-Times and AP photos

Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrat J.B. Pritzker have been ripping on each other for more than a year, but they’ll soon have to meet face to face in debates ahead of the November election.

And they’re already feuding about what those may be.

Pritzker on Thursday agreed to participate in the following debates: Sept. 20 in Chicago, sponsored by NBC 5, Telemundo, Union League of Chicago and Chicago Urban League; Oct. 3 in Chicago, sponsored by ABC 7, Univision, and League of Women Voters, and Oct. 11 in Quincy, sponsored by WGEM and the Illinois Broadcasters Association.

But Rauner campaign spokesman Will Allison said the Pritzker camp did not reach out to the Republican incumbent’s campaign beforehand. Allison said it “doesn’t mean we aren’t going to do those debates,” but noted they were not given any “heads up.” Allison, too, said the participating TV stations were also not notified.

If the schedule goes as Pritzker planned, both candidates have a big stake in Downstate Quincy. Rauner has been embroiled in controversy over his administration’s response to a deadly Legionnaires’ outbreak at the Illinois Veterans’ Home. He spent several nights there in January and a task force he created is poised to try to rebuild the flailing home. Pritzker has continually hammered Rauner over the outbreak, labeling the governor’s handling of it “fatal mismanagement.”

Pritzker was the first to announce the debate schedule, while touting that he’s participated in more than 50 forums and debates in the primary election and throwing in some digs.

“This is a critical election for our state and it is important for all voters in Illinois to hear from the gubernatorial candidates about their plans to fight for working families,” Pritzker said in a statement. “I look forward to sharing my vision for creating jobs, expanding healthcare and investing in education and comparing it to Bruce Rauner’s failed record of causing a 736-day budget crisis, attacking public education, and driving the state economy into the ground.”

Rauner’s campaign on Thursday morning said they look forward to “debates,” but didn’t specify that they’ll participate in the ones listed.

“Governor Rauner looks forward to participating in debates to talk about how JB Pritzker is wrong on taxes, corruption, and Mike Madigan,” Allison said.

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