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Downstate debate fight kicks up again after possible cancellation

Thursday, Feb 8, 2018

* You may recall that back on December 6th we discussed JB Pritzker’s decision not to debate his rivals during a March 5 debate hosted by WCIA TV in Champaign. He got some heat for the decision at the time, but, for whatever reason, no other media outlet reported on the dispute.

Anyway, WCIA is now considering canceling the debate

The debate, scheduled to be hosted by Springfield-area television station WCIA, is in danger of being cancelled after Pritzker’s campaign confirmed this week that the candidate will not participate in the event.

* Sen. Daniel Biss, who, unlike Pritzker, is not airing any TV ads on Downstate stations, has launched an online petition to save the debate. Press release…

Nexstar, the corporate owners of WCIA Channel 3 in Springfield and its media partners, are considering cancelling the only televised downstate debate before the March 20 primary election because JB Pritzker is declining to participate. This debate, scheduled for March 5, would be hosted by WCIA Channel 3 and would be televised in every media market in the state.

In the past month, WCIA has published two stories critical of Pritzker. WCIA’s reporting in one story showed how Pritzker had cashed out hundreds of millions of dollars in Hyatt stock, funneling the transactions through shell corporations. In the second story, WCIA revealed that Pritzker had used two of his other firms to max out contributions to Michael Madigan and the Illinois Democratic Party as he was preparing to run for governor.

“Pritzker, who has recently dropped in the polls and is batting off one negative news story after another is clearly worried about going up on stage in front of a statewide audience two weeks before primary election day,” said Biss communications director Tom Elliott.

“We’ve seen this before: a billionaire businessman who doesn’t want to answer tough questions and blames the media while avoiding them. If Pritzker is that worried about facing questions from members of the press or from members of his own party, he is clearly not ready to go up against Bruce Rauner in the general election.”

“Middle class and working families can’t afford four more years of Bruce Rauner, and they deserve to hear from the candidates seeking to replace him. Daniel Biss agreed to this debate when it was first proposed last year, and intends to participate.

The Biss campaign is inviting Illinois voters who share this commitment to help “Save our Downstate Debate” by signing a petition, which will be delivered to Nexstar and WCIA Channel 3.

The petition is here.

* Chris Kennedy, who also isn’t airing any Downstate ads, has his own petitions…

Chris Kennedy’s campaign for governor launched an online petition today, urging organizers of the state’s only televised debate happening outside of Chicago to keep the debate as scheduled, despite JB Pritzker’s decision not to participate:

Chris Kennedy:
“By rejecting the only televised debate scheduled outside the Chicago market, JB Pritzker has sent a clear message to voters that they’re not worthy of hearing where he stands on the issues. This is a clear indicator of what a Pritzker administration would look like: a top-down approach to leadership and no transparency. It all sounds dangerously familiar. We all need to be vetted by the press and by the voters. JB shouldn’t be exempt from that, but if he chooses to hide behind his TV ads and sit out this debate, the debate should still happen. Voters should still have the opportunity to hear from the candidates who have the courage to face them.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - OneMan - Thursday, Feb 8, 18 @ 12:17 pm:

    There is no win in JB doing the debate. Don’t see why they still don’t have it, however.

  2. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Feb 8, 18 @ 12:19 pm:

    On-line petitions are to the social media “slacktivists” what holding one’s breath is for stubborn toddlers.

  3. - Todd - Thursday, Feb 8, 18 @ 12:21 pm:

    SO how about the TV station refuses any ads from a candidate that won’t appear

  4. - Arthur Andersen - Thursday, Feb 8, 18 @ 12:22 pm:

    Darn that pesky Mark Maxwell.

    Somehow I don’t think Kennedy’s petition is going to affect JB’s decision on attending the debate. I agree with OneMan that they should proceed with or without JB, perhaps with a nice empty La-Z-Boy in his place if he doesn’t show.

  5. - Retired Educator - Thursday, Feb 8, 18 @ 12:23 pm:

    When you are behind you complain. When your ahead you decide on your options. How hard is that to understand? Bliss and Kennedy together can’t bring in the viewers the station feels they need. So they may decide to cancel. (Understandable)

  6. - Concerned Dem - Thursday, Feb 8, 18 @ 12:30 pm:

    Isn’t there still a downstate forum at UIS on February 21st? And if memory serves me right Pritzker is signed on to participate… so 1. Why doesn’t WCIA try to televise that one 2. Doesn’t that pretty much defuse Biss/Kennedy’s whining about Pritzker “avoiding” them downstate

  7. - Michelle Flaherty - Thursday, Feb 8, 18 @ 12:35 pm:

    From the station’s standpoint you have the debate. If the guy goes on to win without attending, you move on and keep doing your job.
    If the guy loses without attending, you make sure every candidate from here on out knows that he or she must attend your events or they are politically dead.

  8. - @misterjayem - Thursday, Feb 8, 18 @ 1:00 pm:

    “SO how about the TV station refuses any ads from a candidate that won’t appear”

    The FCC’s political broadcast rules require that ALL candidates for the same office must be treated in an equal manner.

    – MrJM

  9. - SaulGoodman - Thursday, Feb 8, 18 @ 1:30 pm:

    **Doesn’t that pretty much defuse Biss/Kennedy’s whining about Pritzker “avoiding” them downstate**

    One is televised in downstate markets. The other one is not. Why is JB only doing the one that isn’t televised?

  10. - hisgirlfriday - Thursday, Feb 8, 18 @ 1:34 pm:

    I have been seeing Biss TV ads where I am at Downstate.

  11. - Rutro - Thursday, Feb 8, 18 @ 1:48 pm:

    Agree they should proceed, they could stick a cardboard cutout on the lazyboy or a toilet, maybe then Kennedy could say something nice.

  12. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Feb 8, 18 @ 1:53 pm:

    ===Why is JB only doing the one that isn’t televised? ===

    Because he is alone on Downstate airwaves and likely doesn’t want to give Kennedy or Biss some oxygen. Plus, the dude is super duper overly cautious about literally everything. It’s really quite remarkable.

  13. - regnaD kciN - Thursday, Feb 8, 18 @ 2:42 pm:

    If I were Biss or Kennedy, I’d ask for the debate to still be held and then I’d bring a toilet and put it where JB was supposed to be. Makes for a nice visual.

  14. - Anonymous - Thursday, Feb 8, 18 @ 3:06 pm:

    Pritzker is a coward.

  15. - m - Thursday, Feb 8, 18 @ 4:40 pm:

    =On-line petitions are to the social media “slacktivists” what holding one’s breath is for stubborn toddlers.=

    Yes, and in this case it’s also about gathering names and email addresses for their mailing lists.

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