Reviewing the Republican candidates for Illinois Governor (Part 5)

The last candidate to cover in this review of the GOP governor hopefuls is that of state Senator Kirk Dillard. For those who have been looking for the perfect man for Illinois Governor, well, good luck with your quest. My sense is that you may be disappointed.

The fact that seven men have stepped up to run has made it clear to most that none of the candidates is strong enough to rally the kind of support that deters others from entering the race.

Long time state Senator Dillard from DuPage served as former Governor Jim Edgar’s chief of staff, though anyone paying attention probably already knows that. I remember conservatives being happy when the Edgar years ended a decade ago. Not everyone will see his time with Edgar as a positive on Dillard’s résumé.

Dillard’s opponents have gone after him often as if he were the front-runner in this campaign – and Dillard’s name shows up in our archives as well, often in a negative light.

Today I can add another example of something we’ve read that I’m not happy with. In Monday’s Chicago Tribune, Dillard is quoted as saying that he wouldn’t rule out a tax increase: “all options ought to be out there.”

That statement alone could cost Dillard the election. This column believes the only solution is to take a hatchet to state spending. Dillard’s opening position must not be to have an open mind that gives the tax eaters even more taxpayers’ money.

But since the leadership of our party and legislative caucuses have thus far only demonstrated an ability to remain firmly in the minority, like it or not, the wishes of conservatives once again will remain only wishes. As we keep saying – political reform has to precede policy reform, and conservatives and the Illinois Republican Party have a long road ahead to get their act together.

It’s my personal view that Kirk Dillard understands that simple fact (political reform has to precede policy reform). As a former county party chairman and member of the IL GOP State Central Committee, Dillard stood with reformers led by state Senator Chris Lauzen in calling for the passage of SB600 – the biggest step that can be taken to clean out the IL GOP political barn.

On the positive side of the ledger, Dillard can take a punch from friends and foes alike and yet remain professional. That’s saying a lot. It’s a very tough arena, and the ability of a candidate or elected official to not take everything personal shows a strength and maturity we need more of in politics.

No one in office as a Republican has a great win-loss record. Denying that – or making excuses – or refusing to talk with your critics only solidifies most politician’s insularity and stupidity. My experience is that Dillard picks up the phone to talk with or shoots an email to people who have taken him to task.

Dillard’s website – – is okay, with his issue headings as follows:

Living within our means, Creating a Destination Economy, Best in Class education reforms, Setting the Example on Ethics.

Like most of the candidates, Dillard claims the Reagan mantle. Many of his critics call that a sacrilege. I’ll leave that argument aside – but remind all those Reagan fans that Governor Ronald Reagan and President Ronald Reagan didn’t accomplish as much as myth would have you believe. (I was a Reagan supporter and a Reagan critic – he simply could have gotten more done with better staff.)

A large negative for Dillard in my book is that some of his supporters give me pause. Some of the worst elements of the Gov. Thompson, Gov. Edgar, and Gov. Ryan era seem as if they’re on the brink of “happy days being here again” with the prospects of a Gov. Dillard. Should Dillard win, he’ll have to disappoint those low-lifes via force or face a failed administration.

The Republican side of the “bi-partisan political combine” seeking contracts, pork, and graft can’t be resurrected with a Republican governor. The sooner Dillard makes this clear, the sooner his chances of winning the primary will improve. His decision to close his campaign committee for two years if he wins is an important step in the right direction.

My friends who support Kirk Dillard point out that he has shown he can work with both sides of the aisle and his experience in Edgar’s administration means he knows the difficult reality of the Governor/General Assembly political tussle. They defend him as an “adult” who can win the general election – not as the perfect candidate, but as someone who has the ability to advance the ball.

Some of my friends who oppose Dillard do so for personal reasons. You might have noticed that many people in politics don’t get along and often really don’t like each other. Other friends who oppose him can’t forgive Dillard’s many fumbles.

Where do I come down? I’ve watched the campaign for months – knowing the candidates’ records and listening closely to their words. Usually by now I would know who I’m voting for on election day. This is not a usual time. Count me as someone who is still undecided.

As the horses come down the home stretch in January, I’ll make up my mind. Their judgment, record, and words will be weighed against the harsh realism any supporter of limited government must face.