Illinois gubernatorial debate

Watch the Illinois gubernatorial debate at 9 p.m. EDT on Thursday, Oct. 9, featuring incumbent governor Pat Quinn (D) and Bruce Rauner (R). Live stream courtesy of WTVP.

An increasingly bitter contest for the Illinois governor's mansion will play out in Peoria, Illinois, tonight when Incumbent Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican challenger Bruce Rauner face off in their first televised debate.

Illinois public broadcasters WTVP, WILL, WSIU, and WUIS co-sponsor the event at 9 p.m. EDT tonight with the League of Women Voters of Illinois. Jak Tichenor, host of WSIU's Illinois Lawmakers program, moderates.

The numbers have consistently shown the Democratic incumbent neck-and-neck with Rauner, a businessman running his first political campaign. As PBS NewsHour's Domenico Montanaro reported back in March, Gov. Quinn's tenure has been bumpy: he narrowly squeaked to victory in 2006 with less than 50 percent of the vote, and his approval ratings have hovered consistently around 30 percent. Most recently, his administration has faced allegations of misappropriating funds intended for an anti-violence initiative.

But beyond the polls, this contest has gotten personally contentious. The candidates publicly squabbled last month before the Chicago Tribune editorial board, with each man accusing the other of corruption. "The only difference between Pat Quinn and Rod Blagojevich is the hair," Rauner said at one point, referring to the governor's disgraced predecessor, who was convicted of soliciting bribes while in office.

If the candidates can keep away from personal barbs, domestic economic policy is bound to be a central focus of tonight's debate. Quinn has become increasingly outspoken in favor of increasing the minimum wage and fighting income inequality, while Rauner, who worked in private equity for decades, believes his business background will bring jobs back to the Prairie State.

Watch how this conversation plays out in the player above, and follow #ILGov2014 on Twitter.

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