March 9, 2006

Republican Gov hopefuls share the love during debate

What started off as a sideshow took center stage at a debate among the four Republican candidates for governor Tuesday night.

Allegations by GOP businessman Jim Oberweis that rival Judy Baar Topinka ordered a potentially damaging document to be shredded more than a decade ago turned into accusations that Oberweis doesn't like women and that Topinka, the state treasurer, is “hyper-sensitive.”

The tension between the two - with two weeks to go before voters head to the polls - was visible before, during and after the hour-long debate before a group of business owners at a Springfield auditorium.

Unlike candidates Bill Brady of Bloomington and Ron Gidwitz of Chicago, Oberweis and Topinka didn't talk while they awaited the start of the event, traded barbs during the event and she refused to shake his hand after the event concluded.

In the end, the overall discussion by each candidate on issues ranging from education funding to tax and fee hikes imposed by Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich was overshadowed by the sniping between Topinka and Oberweis.

“I think he may have some difficulty dealing with women. That's the impression that I get,” Topinka told reporters afterward in response to Oberweis' accusations. “If he thinks he's going to roll me, he's nuts. It's not going to happen.”

At issue between Oberweis and Topinka are events surrounding a controversial state-backed hotel loan program dating to the Republican administration of former Gov. James R. Thompson.

At Oberweis' urging, former Topinka chief of staff Martin Kovarik has publicly stated that he was ordered to shred a list of investors in the hotel who had failed to repay the state loan.

Topinka denies the accusation and said Kovarik is disgruntled about being forced out of his job in 1995 after Topinka learned he owed money to the Internal Revenue Service.

In the debate, Oberweis was booed when he tried to bring the subject up. He also has acknowledged that some of the details Kovarik has mentioned were later found to be incorrect.

But, Oberweis said details of the incident were insignificant. “The key is the direction is accurate,” said Oberweis. “Voters have a right to understand this.”

After initially saying he was staying out of the fray, Gidwitz joined the criticism by telling reporters that Topinka shouldn't have hired Kovarik because the two were romantically involved - a statement Topinka refused to confirm, saying she doesn't discuss her personal life.

Said Gidwitz, “I don't believe you ought to be hiring your wives, your sons, your children and people with whom you have a romantic relationship. It creates a real potential for conflict of interest. It's one of the problems we have here in this state.”

Gidwitz added that Topinka is “hypersensitive” and “can't stand the criticism.”

“Just imagine how it's going to be in a general election when she's facing off against Rod Blagojevich,” said Gidwitz.

Brady, a state senator and real estate developer, said the fighting will hurt GOP chances to defeat Blagojevich next November.

“This campaign has reduced itself to a level that is going to make it hard to rebuild the Republican Party,” said Brady. “If we're going to beat Rod Blagojevich we've got to unite the party and make Democrats want to join it.”

In fact, Brady drew the loudest cheers of the night from the pro-business crowd when he was asked about his position on the rising cost of health care for businesses.

“My answer is to retire Rod Blagojevich,” he said.

Topinka said Oberweis' accusations are inconsequential and designed to “bully” her.

“This is old news. We've gone through this before, and I think there are significantly bigger issues here in the state of Illinois to discuss,” Topinka said. “I don't fall to bullying or intimidation or any of this kind of trashing he is doing.”

3 Comments:

At 3/11/2006 9:44 AM, Blogger maybesomeday said...

Did Gidwitz get the Trib endorsement?? Anyone know?

 
At 3/11/2006 10:01 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Yep, and the Sun-Times too. Click here, then make the window full size.

 
At 3/11/2006 10:11 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Gidwitz endorsement in the Trib

 

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