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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11 months ago
Posted by In the Know

Dillard's referenced comment came at the end of a lengthy press availability on the final day of the legislative Spring session. The session focused on school safety in light of Sandy Hook, college tuition costs, school funding issues and also about a bill sponsored by Dillard concerning school bus drivers under the influence.

For the past year, before the Treasurer was a known candidate for Governor, Dillard always mentions in his speeches that, “It was time to put a Republican First Family back in the Governor’s residence.” Dillard uses this statement in the context of talking about his vision of Illinois and as the father of 10 and 12 year old daughters. He talks about the global economy, college tuitions, sex offenders and criminal laws, pension debt, etc and the effects on kids.

It has nothing to do with, and is not denigrating the ability of anyone else who might hold the Governor’s office. This quote is being taken out of context. Understanding, first-hand, the struggle of working the families and their hectic schedules who are trying to make ends meets on a daily basis is a plus for a Governor.

The media, who have their own agenda, wanted to “go there,” not Senator Dillard who IS above it all, and has proved that repeatedly throughout his career.

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