CHICAGO – Attorney General Jim Ryan, the Republican candidate for governor, accused his opponent of having "no shame'' for bringing up the deaths of six children in an accident related to the state's licenses-for-bribes scandal.
Thursday's debate turned into a shouting match, with Ryan waving his finger at Democratic Rep. Rod Blagojevich and raising his voice to accuse the congressman of trying to exploit the children's' deaths, which happened before he became attorney general.
Blagojevich said Ryan was not responsible for the deaths, but should have investigated the secretary of state's office once he became attorney general.
Ryan, who has said he did not investigate because federal authorities did, exploded.
"Have you no shame, Rod?'' Jim Ryan asked. "Have you no shame? Are you talking about those Willis children? Have you no shame, Rod?''
Blagojevich shot back: "Is this public television or 'The Jerry Springer Show'?''
The debate was a reprise of the 1998 gubernatorial contest, when Democratic candidate Glenn Poshard released a television ad that linked Republican George Ryan to the 1994 crash involving a truck driver alleged to have bought his license when George Ryan was secretary of state.
Poshard was widely criticized for the ad, which showed the charred wreckage of the van in which the children of the Rev. Duane and Janet Willis were fatally burned. He backed down from the charges and lost a close election a month later.
Although accused of no wrongdoing in the four-year corruption investigation, George Ryan opted to retire after one term.
Blagojevich and Jim Ryan, who is not related to the governor, renewed their fight in news conferences after the debate.
"Politics has hit a new low in Illinois,'' Ryan said. "I have never met anybody in politics that would say what he said. He wears a nice suit and he's got a nice-looking face, but you better worry about his character.''
Blagojevich said Ryan is not responsible for the children's' deaths.
"He is, however, responsible for his failure to root out the corruption that was happening in the secretary of state's office during that time period, over three years, before the U.S attorney's office got involved,'' Blagojevich said.