By Jamey Dunn
Both Sen. Bill Brady and Gov. Pat Quinn hold positions on major social issues that do not align with the opinions of Illinois voters, according to one poll.
During last night’s debate at Elmhurst College, Brady said that as governor, he would lift the moratorium on the death penalty, which former Gov. George Ryan put in place in 2006 after DNA evidence exonerated prisoners on death row.
According to a recent poll of 1,000 registered voters by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, Illinois residents agree with Brady. More than half of respondents, 56 percent, said Illinois should reinstate the death penalty. However, 36 percent said the moratorium should remain in place. The poll has a 3 percent margin of error.
“The people of Illinois have spoken, and they have said that this is the law of the land,” Brady said at the debate. He added that Illinois has the “utmost obligation to make sure that innocent people aren’t put to death.” But when Brady was asked how he would avoid such errors, he did not give any specifics.
Meanwhile Quinn — who does not want to abolish the death penalty but does want to keep the hold in place — said at the debate that he has Illinoisans' backing. “I think the people of Illinois really do support the moratorium and support me.”
He said more time is needed to see whether reforms that have been put in place are effective before the state starts using capital punishment again. “I think we should take a pause and make sure the reforms are working, so not one human being is wrongfully executed.”
“If you contrast the two governor candidates, Brady is on the side of public opinion on that one, and Quinn is on the side of public opinion when it comes to gay marriage and civil unions,” said John Jackson, a visiting professor with the public policy institute.
Brady’s stance on civil unions does not match up with poll numbers. Almost 68 percent of participants in the public policy institute poll supported some form of legal recognition from same-sex unions — with 33.6 percent supporting marriage, and 33.9 percent backing civil unions. About a quarter of respondents said there should be no legal recognition for same-sex couples.
But Brady said during the debate that he did not think he was out of step with Illinoisans when he backed a constitutional ban on civil unions. “My beliefs are what they are, and I believe a lot of people in Illinois respect those beliefs.” Brady then changed the subject to economic issues.
Jackson said Brady has “skillfully” avoided making social issues a substantial part of the campaign. “I agree that the budget is by far the bigger thing right now,” Jackson said. However, he said Brady has been “very, very vague” on his intentions regarding social issues if he is elected governor.
Respondents to the poll also weighed in on a national issue that has made recent news. More than 70 percent favored openly gay and lesbian soldiers serving in the U.S. military, while 19 percent were opposed. Last week, a federal judge ruled the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy on gay and lesbians serving in the military unconstitutional and ordered that it should no longer be enforced.