The running mates to four Illinois GOP gubernatorial candidates met for the first time — and likely last — Thursday night to make their best pitch for an office that’s often forgotten, apparently even by them.
The position of lieutenant governor is so under-the-radar that one of the contenders — state Rep. Jil Tracy of Quincy — had even once voted to eliminate the office.
In a live lieutenant governor forum broadcast on WTTW Thursday, moderator Phil Ponce asked the panel to name one accomplishment the current office holder achieved that was impressive.
He was met with silence.
Still, each pointed to the change in law that means for the first time the position is linked to the governor and they run as a ticket, rather than independently.
State Treasurer Dan Rutherford’s running mate, Steve Kim, said that allows the two officials to govern more as a team. Kim then defended Rutherford for staying in the race, saying he remains viable and has support, despite sexual harassment allegations lodged against Rutherford by a former employee about six weeks ago.
“This is a man 22 years in government service, never a complaint,” Kim said. “He has told me none of it is true.”
Evelyn Sanguinetti, who is running with Bruce Rauner, said she supports medical marijuana, but Rauner does not. She also explained why she filed a lawsuit after a slip and fall accident in Wheaton — something for which she’s received some criticism.
Sanguinetti said that doesn’t contradict her position wanting tort reform because she settled the case, for less than $10,000, then donated the money to charity. She said she has a titanium plate in her neck because of the incident.
Maria Rodriguez, who is Bill Brady’s running mate, explained why she chose Brady over Rauner — who had initially approached her about going with his campaign.
Rodriguez said there was a difference between “buying name recognition and deep support. Bill Brady has great support because he came so close in the last election. There’s a chance to build on that,” she said. “The people who are working for us are not paid.”
Ponce grilled Tracy on how she can explain Dillard voting against a pension reform bill that she helped craft.
“We agree that the pension systems have sadly been underfunded. We have to make it solvent and sustainable. We both agree that needs to be done. Means to approaching that,” they differ.
Tracy also defended the recent influx of union money to Dillard’s campaign.
“Regardless of where we’ve received our money, we’ve remained open minded,” said Tracy. “Campaign funds don’t control a candidate and the way that they vote on important issues.”
Tracy, whose husband’s family owns a lucrative food supply business, was asked why she had never disclosed her tax returns as all the others had.
She said she was never asked — and pledged to do so after Ponce went ahead and asked.
“Nothing to hide there,” she said.