Democratic candidates square off during heated gubernatorial forum

CHICAGO — At a gubernatorial forum for Democratic candidates Thursday at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, Daniel Biss and Chris Kennedy came out swinging, looking to mix it up with JB Pritzker, but Pritzker also showed up ready to fight.

Right out of the gate, JB Pritzker and Chris Kennedy, both wealthy businessmen, fought over who’s created the most jobs. Later, Pritzker attacked Kennedy for voting to raise tuition as Chair of the Board at the University of Illinois.

Caught on an FBI wiretap making racially charged comments years ago with Rod Blagojevich, Pritzker has been in damage control mode as the campaign winds down. When asked if he’s repaired the damage Thursday, he said he's admitted he was wrong.

Pritzker also attacked State Senator Daniel Biss, saying he hasn't stood up enough for the middle class. Biss went after Pritzker for not calling on House Speaker Michael Madigan’s to step down as party chairman amid questions about his handling of sexual harassment complaints made against his lieutenants.

After a long race, the March 20 primary is finally in sight and Pritzker, Biss and Kennedy remain in the top tier. A new poll shows Pritzker with a double-digit lead over Biss. Kennedy comes in third, but one-fourth of voters remain undecided.

It has been a sprint to the finish line for the candidates. Every day, the hopefuls pack their schedules with events and fundraising calls. Those calls are paying off for Biss, who today announced he raised more than $2 million in January and February. He needs the funds to keep up with billionaire Pritzker, who has pumped $56 million of his fortune — or $171,000 a day — into his bid.

This week, Pritzker is highlighting late endorsements from Chicago newspapers, unions and suburban mayors. Kennedy also has new endorsement but this week he tried to shine a spotlight on misconduct in state politics by unveiling a plan to combat sexual harassment.

The candidates will go at it again tomorrow night during a primetime debate.