Illinois Governor Candidate Kirk Dillard Really Knows How To Alienate a Constituency

It’s hard for Republicans to find new ways to take a stand on social issues. Dillard’s plan? Bring a “first family” into power.

Photo: Scootie/CC by 2.0

For Republicans, it’s hard finding new stances on social issues to distinguish themselves from intra-party competition. Oppose gay marriage? Single-parent households? Get in line.

But Kirk Dillard, who was narrowly edged out by Bill Brady in the last GOP primary for governor—which some believe cost the GOP a narrow window in which to defeat an incredibly vulnerable Democratic incumbent with a relatively moderate Republican—found a niche. As Eric Zorn puts it, he went there. Kirk Dillard 2014: If You’re Not a Breeder, You’re Not a Leader.

But Dillard says it’s time to put what he calls “a first family” back in the Governor’s Mansion.

“I really believe just for our state’s image and for the way a governor thinks, you need a first family in a traditional sense back in the governor’s residence.”

Lest you think this is mere trolling against non-existent gay-married candidates for governor, WLS’s Bill Cameron makes it clear it’s in reference to two bachelors in the race, Pat Quinn and Dan Rutherford. (But Pat Quinn is divorced! What’s non-traditional about that? I am younger than Dillard, though, and my tradition clock may not go back far enough.)

The back story is this: Bill Brady beat Dillard by 193 votes for the honor of running against the tremendously unpopular if grudgingly respected Pat Quinn, in the election just before the awaited Lisa Madigan juggernaut was expected to arrive. It was a ripe chance for the GOP to take back the governor’s office in a blue-trending state with national, midterm tailwinds. Quinn beat Brady by 0.5 percent.

Now Dillard is back in the mix, but he’s got a busier field to distinguish himself in: not just Rutherford, but fiscally conservative friend-of-Rahm Bruce Rauner (be sure to check out Carol Felsenthal’s Q&A with Rauner in this month’s Chicago), who officially announced today after being all-but-official for some time. Rauner is considered a “social liberal,” insofar as his exploratory site suggests he could care less about quote-unquote social issues; his platform consists exclusively of his positions on jobs, spending, taxes, pension reform, government reform, and education.

Rauner staked Rahm Emanuel to the banking job that made Emanuel independently wealthy, and has remained involved with Emanuel on education and business issues, shades of Dillard cutting an ad for friend and former colleague Barack Obama in 2007. Time will tell if Rauner’s stringently pro-business platform—he told Felsenthal that he most admires Mitch Daniels, Scott Walker, Rick Scott, and Jeb Bush among U.S. governors—is enough to endear him to the party despite his ambivalence on red-meat social issues.

Since getting stung by Brady, Dillard has moved to the right. Now he’s got Rauner on his left flank, and might have Brady just to his right. Rich Miller suggests that such a narrow loss can “mess with your mind,” but there might also be some method to Dillard’s madness.

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