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Candidates lash out at Pritzker after WCIA cancels debate

Tuesday, Feb 20, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From yesterday…

This afternoon, WCIA-TV in the Champaign-Springfield-Decatur media market notified our campaign that they’ve officially decided to cancel their debate.

Somewhere in this state, hiding behind more than $30 million in TV ads, JB Pritzker is breathing a sigh of relief that he’s no longer obligated to face voters during what was to be the only televised debate happening outside of the Chicago market.

Pritzker’s decision that downstate voters aren’t worthy of hearing his positions on issues so they can vet the candidates against each other ultimately led to the debate being canceled.

The good news is Chris Kennedy still cares about voters throughout our state and he isn’t afraid to face them. Chris still plans to host a meet and greet in Champaign on Monday, March 5, the date this debate was to happen. He looks forward to hearing from voters and sharing his vision to bring radical change to Illinois.

* Also…

Campaign Manager Abby Witt released the following statement in response to WCIA’s decision to cancel to only televised downstate debate.

“JB is borrowing a page from the billionaire playbook, avoiding debates and shunning reporters who ask tough questions.

“This is a critical election for middle class and working families. They are deciding who they trust to fight for them—and if he won’t show up for a Democratic debate, how can we trust him to show up when they need him the most.

“Our campaign is focused on meeting with voters and reporters in every community, and that’s why we’ll be hosting our own town hall in Champaign on March 5.”

* Public Radio

Speaking on Illinois Public Media’s daily talk show, The 21st, Pritzker said he’s already done almost 50 forums and joint appearances.

“We actually have agreed back in December to do six debates, and that was very well known”, said Pritzker. “This debate came up later.”

A campaign spokesperson later reached out Monday evening to say Pritzker “misspoke” about the timing of the invitation for the Springfield debate, but did not provide another explanation for not participating.

* The official letter…



I’m told by a good source that “not one” reporter in WCIA’s newsroom supports the station’s decision to kill the debate. The decision was “made by Nexstar corporate in tandem with CBS2 and KMOV in St Louis,” the source said. “Way above our heads.”

       

42 Comments
  1. - m - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 10:18 am:

    A downstate audience would not have likely been very warm to Madigan’s guy. Probably a smart move, but it opens him up to all the attacks about hiding from voters. Biss and Kennedy need to be in downstate to make much out of it.

    Why not ask WILL or someone else in Champaign to host a debate without or without Pritzker?


  2. - Chris Widger - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 10:19 am:

    ==“This is a critical election for middle class and working families. They are deciding who they trust to fight for them—and if he won’t show up for a Democratic debate, how can we trust him to show up when they need him the most.”==

    This is a nice reminder that you can say literally anything and not be struck by lightning from the gods, no matter how outlandish the statement is.


  3. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 10:20 am:

    They’re not getting a bounce from a debate, so all that’s left is to complain, for earned media.

    But are they downstate? With any real presence?


  4. - JB13 - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 10:22 am:

    Given the amount of influence he seems to wield over their news and production decisions, can WCIA just name JB Pritzker an honorary editor/producer, and make it official?


  5. - Rutro - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 10:27 am:

    Daily Illini?


  6. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 10:27 am:

    Seems like nearly every election year, some front-runner somewhere decides not to debate an opponent. Can anyone point to any electoral penalty paid by a front-runner’s decision to skip a debate?

    But the charge that somehow skipping this debate is insulting downstate voters is tired and cliched. It never works, just stirs up some lingering regional divisiveness.

    The skipping-a-debate story is to politics as the swallows returning to Capistrano is to ornithology.


  7. - m - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 10:30 am:

    =But the charge that somehow skipping this debate is insulting downstate voters is tired and cliched. It never works, just stirs up some lingering regional divisiveness.=

    So is it not “insulting downstate voters”?


  8. - G'Kar - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 10:35 am:

    ==So is it not “insulting downstate voters”?==

    Living downstate and being involved politically myself, I’ve observed two things about down state voters and debates.

    1. They don’t watch them.
    2. They don’t care (not about politics and who will be governor, but about debates in general).


  9. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 10:35 am:

    He just did a debate in Carbondale about ten days ago and I’m pretty sure there’s another Springfield one coming up in the next couple of days. So how exactly is this insulting downstate voters by not doing this one debate?


  10. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 10:38 am:

    ===So is it not “insulting downstate voters”?===

    We’ll find out on March 20th.

    But I love the irony of two suburban Democrats telling Downstate Democrats that they should feel offended. It’s as if they think Downstate Democrats don’t have the internet or any other way to learn about candidates other than WCIA.


  11. - Last Bull Moose - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 10:39 am:

    Biss and Kennedy are repeating the Brady Dillard mistake of dividing the anti-billionaire vote. I don’t care if they meet and agree on one withdrawing in exchange for the other backing certain policy proposals or if they flip a coin.

    I do not dislike Pritzker and will vote for him over Rauner. I just have a sense of disquiet about him.


  12. - Whatever - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 10:39 am:

    A debate over debates. *yawn. Agree with 47th and G’Kar.


  13. - hisgirlfriday - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 10:40 am:

    @47th ward - Well JB is paying the electoral penalty of not getting my vote over this when I have been an undecided voter down to him and Biss.

    It’s obnoxious to run TV spots about how much he cares about Downstate and then he cant participate in the only Central Illinois debate because his campaign is scared what he will say or what will be said about him. To me its a wimp move when hardly anyone is going to see the debate or read coverage of it and he is alienating people like me for no reason by shunning it.

    My vote was very gettable. Biss has some votes that bug me big time and Pritzker providing a cash infusion for party building is attractive to me. But JB’s decision on this debate told me my vote as a Central Illinois Democrat doesn’t matter to him so he’s not getting it in the primary.

    But in the


  14. - Perrid - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 10:40 am:

    I don’t get why he decided not to do it, but at the same time he has been to events all over downstate. So he’s not ignoring downstate voters, or hiding from them.


  15. - 360 Degree TurnAround - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 10:43 am:

    Assuming that us downstaters have a picture box in our home, with a cable connection, and I’ve heard this new thing…the internets. It doesn’t matter where they debate, voters have had ample opportunity to watch and listen.


  16. - Just Visiting - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 10:46 am:

    Pritzker is all about Chicago. More evidence he cares little for those south of I80.


  17. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 10:51 am:

    HGF,

    I felt the same way when Rich Daley refused to debate Gene Sawyer. And Judge Pincham. And Bobby Rush. And Dorothy Brown. Daley lost my vote each time.

    I’m sure he learned a valuable lesson too.


  18. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 10:51 am:

    ===Pritzker is all about Chicago. More evidence he cares little for those south of I80.===

    … and yet Pritzker has nearly two dozen field offices all over Illinois, including south of I-80…

    Ugh.

    To the Post,

    Right now, Pritzker feels he is leading, while still being under water, in a crowded field, so why increase his negatives on TV with both Kennedy and Biss hammering him all night?

    Pritzker is counting on Labor, his TV buys and the field operations downstate far more than trying to hold serve in a debate where there are far too many issues he could stumble and fall on… on TV… the lone debate in the region.

    It’s where ground game and ground forces, aided by their own air cover makes this decision an easy one.


  19. - LXB - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 10:54 am:

    Didn’t he say months ago he wasn’t doing this debate? He’s appearing at plenty of other downstate events, he’s got tons of field offices outside Chicagoland, and has been advertising down here for months. He has the only significant downstate presence of the three main candidates. So who cares? Honestly, it’s hard to imagine this kind of whining actually being a net positive for anybody.


  20. - Valerie F. Leonard - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 10:57 am:

    The debate should have gone on without J.B. Pritzker. WCIA, as a news outlet, of all organizations, should know that it’s in the voters’ best interest to listen to as many candidates as possible before the election so they can make informed decisions. I’m not a journalist, but this sure doesn’t seem like sound journalism to me. Borderline unethical, if not, unethical. Again, I’m not a journalist. If, for whatever reason J.B. Pritzker can’t make it to the debate, that should be explained, and the debate allowed to continue. Let the voters factor as much information as possible, into their votes, including who showed up, who didn’t, and what their track records and positions are on the issues they care most about.


  21. - Nishi - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 10:57 am:

    There’s probably a specific subset of voters who do reliably vote in primary elections who watch debates and consume information about candidates via traditional media. It is a shame for them that there will not be a televised debate downstate. Aside from that again very specific subset, I can’t imagine this making any difference. It isn’t a good look for Pritzker though. Just seems like he’s trying to ride out these last few weeks.


  22. - Anon0091 - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 10:58 am:

    “…and then he cant participate in the only Central Illinois debate because his campaign is scared what he will say or what will be said about him.”

    It’s not the only downstate debate. He did one a couple weeks ago in Carbondale and I know there are several forums and debates coming up in the next few days - including some downstate. Anyone know the full schedule of the six debates they all are participating in?


  23. - SaulGoodman - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 11:08 am:

    **He just did a debate in Carbondale about ten days ago and I’m pretty sure there’s another Springfield one coming up in the next couple of days. **

    I believe that they weren’t televised.


  24. - hisgirlfriday - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 11:09 am:

    @47th Ward - Do you really see Pritzker in as solid a position heading into this primary as Mayor Daley was in those?

    I get your point that message sending votes are exercises in self-satisfaction rather than political action but I dont see Pritzker as the fait accompli nominee just yet


  25. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 11:21 am:

    ===but I dont see Pritzker as the fait accompli nominee just yet===

    Neither does he judging by his recent contribution, lol.

    My point is that I don’t think skipping this debate, especially given the fact that he has appeared at other debates and joint appearances all over the state, will cost him a lot of votes. As OW points out, he has a lead, he has the cash to stay on the air and he has a ground game. Agreeing to more televised debates only helps his opponents. It makes no strategic sense for Pritzker to give his opponents a televised forum to attack him.


  26. - OurMagician - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 11:49 am:

    JB Pritzker is relying on the Durbin commercial to be enough downstate to drag him across the finish line.


  27. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 11:52 am:

    ===JB Pritzker is relying on the Durbin commercial to be enough downstate to drag him across the finish line.===

    … and the nearly two dozen field offices, and the paid field staff, and Labor, and…

    Thinking Pritzker is just an advertising firm masquerading as a full blown three-dimensional campaign apparatus would be a mistake.

    With respect.


  28. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 11:57 am:

    ===JB Pritzker is relying on the Durbin commercial to be enough downstate===

    lol

    Four weeks to go and you think that’s the extent of it? Right.


  29. - Annonin' - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 12:31 pm:

    Someone ought to crunch numbers. It seems like JB has been through many downstate towns more than any other candidate in a long time. These are free events that Dem can attend.
    Heck we even know some downstaters who watched other debates. None of the events had corn stalks in the background so they did not know where the candidates were.


  30. - lake county democrat - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 12:37 pm:

    Campaigns are holistic - ducking a debate doesn’t hurt him in and of itself. Ducking a debate when you look like a soul-less egotist (Pritker’s “I dunno about re-electing Obama” Exhibit A for that, his Blago tapes Exhibit B) who cut his deal with Speaker Madigan and now looks like a mouse too frightened to antagonize him just plays into a narrative that you’re a paper tiger. At this point, I think it’s just a question of who is turning out this primary - the “regulars” or the new energized base/#metoo movement/BLM/etc.


  31. - Amalia - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 12:39 pm:

    does Illinois have a state chicken? because now it has JB.


  32. - Mr. Smith - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 12:45 pm:

    Convenient that the cancellation decision was made by the higher’s up in the food chain. WCIA has a conservative reputation anyway, and canelling a debate and pointing fingers at one candidate is not exactly a neutral position…

    So if CK and DB are so interested in downstate, why don’t they come debate anyway? I guarantee that if they show up, the media will, too.


  33. - rutro - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 12:55 pm:

    JB has decided its better to write 200k checks to downstate groups. He’s probably right.


  34. - G'Kar - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 1:03 pm:

    ==The viewer pay WCIA’s salary. ==

    Ah, no, the advertisers pay WCIA’s “salary.”


  35. - Back to the Mountains - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 1:32 pm:

    It strikes me that the real rub for the other candidates is that none of them could unilaterally get a debate cancelled by not participating.


  36. - Last Bull Moose - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 3:15 pm:

    WCIA management knows Pritzker vs. Rauner generates the most ad dollars. Simple profit maximization.


  37. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 3:16 pm:

    When you are ahead, you name the song that will be played by the band. When you are behind you will dance to anything. Pritzker is ahead and wants to call the shots. The others who are outraged are lacking in the polls. Did no one tell Biss, and Kennedy that the game has rules. If they were ahead they would be very selective about where they go, and what forum they choose.


  38. - Shytown - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 3:46 pm:

    The Biss-Kennedy folks are funny. Like one debate downstate is going to save their campaigns at this stage. Keep making more noise folks and wasting your time while the clock keeps ticking.


  39. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 4:23 pm:

    Oh look, a debate…

    http://abc7chicago.com/politics/the-race-for-illinois-governor-the-democrats-debate/3114666/


  40. - m - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 4:35 pm:

    =WCIA management knows Pritzker vs. Rauner generates the most ad dollars. Simple profit maximization=

    If we get that matchup in the general, it will be a windfall for local tv.


  41. - FedUP - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 4:35 pm:

    We learned so much at the Duckworth/Kirk debate that we wanted to go to this debate. We see JB has no respect and we are not going to vote for him anyway. We just wanted to see the group dynamics.


  42. - MyTwoCents - Tuesday, Feb 20, 18 @ 5:11 pm:

    So Pritzer will be participating in a downstate debate…

    http://www.sj-r.com/news/20180220/democratic-candidates-for-governor-debate-wednesday-at-uis


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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