UPDATED 11/2/10 7:16 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Decision day has arrived for Illinois voters, who now must pick a new U.S. Senator and governor, among other elected posts.
In the gubernatorial race, voters must cast their ballot for Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn or Republican opponent Bill Brady, Green Party candidate Rich Whitney, Libertarian Lex Green, or independent Scott Lee Cohen.
And whoever wins the race will have a monumental problem on his hands. The state’s $13 billion budget deficit adds up to a debt of about $1,007.75 for every man, woman and child in Illinois.
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As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, campaigning has run to the very last second.
Appearing on the CBS 2 Morning News just after the polls opened Tuesday, Quinn said despite the ballooning deficit, the economy is improving. He said funding education is sure to bring returns.
“Our economy is recovering. This year, we’ve created more jobs than any other state in the Midwest, and that’s part of it. We have to get a stronger economy,” Quinn said. “We have to invest in education; I’ve said that consistently from the beginning. Jobs follow brainpower. We have to have smart people. We can’t be cutting back on education; that’s what my opponent wants to do. I think we need to invest in education, reduce property taxes. By doing that, we’ll have a stronger economy and a better budget.”
Education is necessary in particular for retraining workers whose careers have been destroyed by the economy, Quinn said.
In a separate appearance on the CBS 2 Morning News, Brady blamed Quinn and his predecessor, deposed Gov. Rod Blagojevich, for the mushrooming deficit. But he, too, said there are still opportunities to invest, although he did not specify how.
“We’re not bankrupt. We have $13 billion in deficits. Gov. Quinn and Gov. Blagojevich have put us in a deep hole, but we still have great resources to reinvest in the people of Illinois; to rebuild our job environment, to make our economy work,” Brady said. “That’s what this is all about. It’s about the opportunity in front of us. We can’t just focus on about the liabilities. But we do have to solve the liabilities. We’ve got to pay down the deficit and debt.”
Both Quinn and Brady denied claims that they had gone negative in their campaign ads.
“I didn’t go negative. I had to defend myself. I’ve been attacked by negative commercials from the beginning of this campaign,” Quinn said. “My opponent is relying on false, negative ads to win the election today. I’m relying on the voters, and I think we’ll win today because everyday people believe in our cause.”
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Quinn’s campaign took heat for one ad that ran only online, showing puppies being rounded up and put into a large metal receptacle. The ad, which took Brady to task for sponsoring legislation that would lift a ban on mass euthanasia of stray animals, was dubbed the “nastiest” in the country by the U.K. Guardian newspaper.
But on Tuesday morning, he pointed out a positive ad that touted his endorsement from the Gold Star Families, a group that has lost family members in the Iraq War. Quinn went on to say Brady wants to cut the state Department of Veterans Affairs, and that such would not happen “as long as I’m governor.”
Brady said his campaign had also always remained positive.
“We stayed positive. We started with positive ads. We’re ending with positive ads,” Brady said. “Certainly, we’ve pointed to Gov. Quinn’s record. It’s not personal. I have a rule; we don’t personally attack anybody. But when you’ve got someone who wants to raise taxes on the backs of hardworking families in the worst recessionary times, you can’t do that.”
Brady went on to slam Quinn for “secret” release of prisoners under the since discontinued MGT Push program, and said Quinn “clearly has continued the legacy of Gov. Blagojevich,” but said pointing this out is not negative, “necessarily.”
Polls opened in Illinois at 6 a.m. They will close at 7 p.m.