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Rauner, Pritzker face off in first televised debate on Thursday

J.B. Pritzker, left, and Gov. Bruce Rauner, right. File photos. Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

J.B. Pritzker, left, and Gov. Bruce Rauner, right. File photos. Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Gov. Bruce Rauner will try to gain some momentum and focus on what he calls a “devastating” tax change, and Democrat J.B. Pritzker will try to hammer the embattled governor for what his campaign calls “sweeping claims” that have been “nothing short of failure — on Thursday evening at the first of three debates.

With less than seven weeks to go before the Nov. 6th election, Rauner and Pritzker will face off at 6 p.m. in a debate sponsored by NBC5 Chicago, Telemundo, Union League of Chicago and Chicago Urban League. It will be broadcast live on NBC and live streamed on NBCChicago.com. You can also watch the debate at Suntimes.com/election. The candidates will participate in a roundtable discussion, with some questions taken from audience members.

Third party candidates State Sen. Sam McCann, R-Plainview, and libertarian candidate Grayson “Kash” Jackson are also participating.

The Rauner campaign plans to in part focus on Pritzker’s plan to try to enact a graduated income tax in the state. Rauner has warned that a change to the state’s income tax structure would be “devastating” to the state.

The change — having those with higher incomes pay higher rates — would require a constitutional amendment. And Pritzker has repeatedly declined to say what the rate should be, pinning it on negotiations with the Illinois General Assembly.

“Thursday night, Pritzker will have a chance to be honest with voters about his $11 billion plan and how he would pay for it,” the campaign said in an email Tuesday. “The people of Illinois deserve to know the truth as to how much more they would be forced to pay under JB Pritzker.”

On Wednesday, business leaders joined Rauner in endorsing him for governor and denouncing the graduated income tax plan, which they said would not help to keep businesses in Illinois.

Pritzker’s campaign told the Sun-Times, “Bruce Rauner will over promise and under deliver when he takes the stage.”

The campaign highlighted what they called 14 promises Rauner “failed to keep”: unity, school funding, jobs, minimum wage, mismanagement, bipartisanship, corruption, higher education funding, minority contracting, school performance, social agenda, teacher pay, transparency and waste.

“On almost every topic imaginable, Bruce Rauner has utterly failed to deliver on the promises he made on the debate stage in 2014, giving Illinoisans little reason to believe anything he says,” Pritzker spokeswoman Galia Slayen said in a statement. “Voters don’t need four more years of broken promises from a failed and desperate governor — they deserve a new leader like JB in Springfield who will bring people together to get big things done.”

The two will face off again on Oct. 3 in Chicago, at a debate sponsored by ABC7 Chicago, Univision and League of Women Voters, and Oct. 11 in Quincy, sponsored by WGEM and the Illinois Broadcasters Association. Pritzker and Rauner are also set to appear together before a meeting of the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board on Oct. 9.