NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — Illinois State University is preparing for a gubernatorial showdown between current Governor JB Pritzker and Republican State Senator Darren Bailey.

The two candidates, who are vying to be Illinois’ governor, will be squaring off Thursday night at 7 p.m. in Normal.

“There have been other candidate forums. Other media outlets have held candidate forums here using rooms here on campus, but this is the first time for a gubernatorial debate,” said ISU Director of Media Relations, Eric Jome.

Democrat JB Pritzker and republican Darren Bailey will debate at Braden Auditorium on the campus of Illinois State University.

Jome said the university had been planning it for months.

“One of the university’s core values is civic engagement and that’s something that we talk about throughout our curriculum and everything that we’re doing,” Jome said.

The event will be broadcast on WMBD and our parent company, Nexstar’s Illinois stations. Tuesday, ISU and Nexstar staff were setting the stage ahead of Thursday’s primetime showdown.

“We have people from literally around the country that have come in to do this debate. It’s super exciting to have everybody converge on Braden Auditorium to put together a production that should be mind-blowing once it goes on air Thursday night,” said General Manager/Vice President of WMBD/WYZZ, Shaun Newell.

Newell said it’s a unique opportunity to host a governor’s race debate in central Illinois.

“This is what it’s all about, you want to sit and say I agree with this candidate on this or I agree with this candidate on that or the fact you don’t know who you’re going to vote for, this is your chance to see which candidate fits your life the best,” Newell said.

AARP Illinois is sponsoring the debate; the organization’s director of advocacy, Ryan Gruenenfelder said many issues that affect seniors affect younger generations as well.

“Some of the issues AARP works on are things like lowering prescription drug prices, trying to stop high cost of utility rates,” Gruenenfelder said.

There will also be another debate between Pritzker and Bailey on Oct. 18 in Chicago at the WGN studios.