CHICAGO (AP) — The four Republican candidates for Illinois lieutenant governor were set to square off Thursday in their only televised debate ahead of the March 18 primary.
It's the first time in state history the candidates for the No. 2 job are running on a ticket with the gubernatorial candidates. This has created a new dynamic on the campaign trail, with members of the ticket splitting up their travels and talking more about teamwork.
The candidates are Northbrook attorney Steve Kim, who is running with Treasurer Dan Rutherford; Wheaton City Council member Evelyn Sanguinetti, who has teamed up with businessman Bruce Rauner; former Long Grove Village President Maria Rodriguez, who is state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington's pick; and state Rep. Jil Tracy of Quincy, who is Hinsdale state Sen. Kirk Dillard's choice.
Still, the four candidates have kept a comparatively lower profile.
All four spoke at a November lunch hosted by the McLean County Republicans. Three candidates — minus Sanguinetti— attended a student-run forum in the suburb of West Chicago last month. Thursday's debate, sponsored by Chicago's WTTW-TV, is the first time they'll all debate together on television.
"It's a good chance. The election is tightening up," Rodriguez said.
Lieutenant governors used to run separately in Illinois. However, legislators changed election law after revelations about 2010 Democratic nominee Scott Lee Cohen surfaced, including a past domestic battery charge. He stepped down following pressure from Democratic leaders.
The team approach has been noticeable on the campaign trail.
Some have more clearly defined what they'll be doing in the office that has few official duties aside from being prepared to take over if something happens to the governor.
Dillard has said Tracy will help end regulations he believes hinder business. Rutherford wants Kim to focus on businesses.
However, the candidates don't always agree. Dillard voted against a recent pension overhaul; Tracy supported it. Rauner doesn't want to extend Illinois' medical marijuana pilot program, but Sanguinetti — who suffers from multiple sclerosis — has said it could help people in pain.
More recently, some candidates have focused getting voters to the polls. Rodriguez cast a ballot on Monday, the first day of early voting, which continues through March 15.