Biss throws himself under the bus answering gov debate question on CTA pass
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State Sen. Daniel Biss – who promises to be the “Middle Class Governor” in ads running throughout the state — endured a “The Price is Right” question Thursday night at a gubernatorial forum in Chicago.
And he didn’t quite pass the test.
Biss, D-Evanston, was asked by WBEZ reporter Dave McKinney what the full price of a monthly CTA pass is during a lightning round of questions to test the six Democratic candidates on their knowledge of prices regular voters pay in everyday expenditures.
“This campaign has been framed as a battle for the heart of middle and low-income voters, and since that’s the case, we’re going to do a simple test to see how connected each of you is to average Illinoisans,” McKinney said.
“A monthly CTA pass. Now, let’s see. My Metra pass now comes pretty close to $50 a month. So A monthly CTA pass I would guess is probably around $35.”
The actual cost is $105, according to the CTA’s website.
Biss’ campaign later said the Evanston senator “mixed up” the weekly and monthly pass prices, and was referring to the weekly Metra pass at $55, and the weekly CTA pass at $35.
The CTA website lists the full price of a “CTA/Pace 7-Day Pass” at $33.
Still, the answer – heard on public radio — and livestreamed online, had some scratching their heads.
Billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist J.B. Pritzker was asked how much a week of child-care or day-care for one child cost. Pritzker responded “about $150 on the low-end,” and “probably $400” on the high-end.
Kennedy was asked for the average price of a men’s haircut. He joked that he “pays up” — about $40 — for a haircut “this good.”
Madison County Schools Supt. Bob Daiber said it costs $2.65 for a 28-ounce jar of peanut butter.
Tio Hardiman, former Ceasefire director, was asked about the average price for an oil change: “I would say about $39, roughly.”
And Robert Marshall, a doctor from Burr Ridge, said a gallon of gas is priced around $2.75.
The off-message moment came just 19 days ahead of the primary in a heated election season — with all polls showing Pritzker with a double-digit lead, and Biss and Kennedy fighting for second place.
Biss took his minor gaffe in stride, tweeting “boy did I miss that one!” But the mathematician-turned-state-senator still made the pitch that he’s best positioned to be “the middle-class governor.”
In one of the more pointed moments of the evening, Pritzker was asked if he’s repaired any damage with African-American voters after the release of an FBI wiretapped conversation with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich from 2008 in which Pritzker dubbed Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White the “least offensive” black candidate to replace President Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate. Pritzker also dismissed former state Senate President Emil Jones as too “crass” for the appointment.
Pritzker said he’s worked to help African-Americans families for decades, “like school breakfasts all across the state for low-income kids and making sure that we provide quality pre-school, quality jobs.”
Pritzker said he was “wrong on that call.”
“And I take responsibility for that,” he said.
That sparked Kennedy’s strongest attack on Pritzker.
“What J.B. says in those tapes, he uses the language — language of racists. Not language of politicians and not language of leaders,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy also doubled down on his criticism of Gov. Bruce Rauner: “Gov. Rauner has been one of the worst governors in the entire country. One of the worst in Illinois history, including those who went to jail,” Kennedy said to some reaction from the audience. “Well, it’s true.”
Daiber, Hardiman and Marshall are the three candidates with the least amount of cash on hand, but the three said they’re doing their best to make their voices heard in what’s becoming one of the most expensive primaries the state has ever seen.
“I wasn’t born into a billionaire family. I didn’t come from a rich political family. I came from a Democratic family. That’s where I came from,” Daiber said, adding he’s never lost a primary race.
Hardiman, the only African-American candidate in the race, said he doesn’t believe the polls. He said he secured about 28 percent of the state vote in the 2014 gubernatorial election, even though the polls had him at just 5 percent.
“If you want a proven leader, a leader that’s not going to have to drink some chocolate milk to show he supports diversity like Rauner did, I want you all to really take a look and vote for Tio Hardiman. If you want something different, we must do something different,” Hardiman said.
Rauner last week at a Black History Month event took part in a presentation by a corporate diversity leader — and took a gulp of chocolate milk, which was extolled as a sign of diversity.
While the six were once again asked whether state House Speaker Mike Madigan should step down as either chairman of the state party or speaker, Marshall — who says his plan to divide the state into three states is the answer to most problems Illinoisans face —went in a different direction.
“This is baloney. He’s not going to go,” Marshall said. “My three-state plan solves the problem. He goes back to Chicago, and we are free. Please step down. Go ahead. I’m honest. Excuse moi.”