In separate appearances across the state, the leading Republican candidates for governor kept things cordial Friday as the two men remained in a near tie that could be broken by the final, straggling votes to be counted next week.
Hinsdale state Sen. Kirk Dillard and Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington finished last week's primary within approximately 420 votes of each other, with Brady in the lead. The narrow margin has prevented anyone from claiming victory and so far both have said they will bide their time until the results are in.
"I'm not the official candidate today," Brady said in Chicago after a series of meetings with GOP leaders - including Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain and U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Mark Kirk. "So we've been delicate with how we've dealt with the situation. I hope we've handled that right. Kirk Dillard and the voters of Illinois certainly deserve that respect."
Since the Feb. 2 primary, Brady has politely maintained that his slim lead will hold up, while Dillard calmly suggests lingering absentee votes in the suburbs could tip the race his way.
"One of the statistically strange things about this election is Senator Brady and I are separated by five ten-thousandths of one percent, and more than 90 percent of his support comes from downstate Illinois," Dillard, talking to reporters after a Springfield event, said of his chances of a turnaround. "So if these (uncounted votes) are in northeastern Illinois, where I beat him pretty soundly, I mean, it's possible."
On Tuesday, counties are set to finish tabulating their absentee and provisional ballots. However, the statewide results won't be official until the Illinois State Board of Elections weighs in March 5.
In the meantime, Dillard said there's no need to rush to make any announcements. He said the Republican ticket isn't losing any ground to Democrats since last week's election represented the earliest primary in the country. He said plenty of time remains to draw out differences with Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, regardless of who carries the GOP banner into November and said he and Brady had met and talked about moving forward.
"Now, everybody just needs to relax," Dillard said.
He said he was in Springfield rather than the Chicago event because he'd promised to attend when the Springfield GOP leaders endorsed him for governor. Brady's wife represented his campaign at the event.
Brady's thin lead is surprising to many political observers given that he barely registered with voters in the Chicago area, relying instead on overwhelming downstate support.
If he's the nominee, Brady predicted his economic platform will resonate with Chicago-area voters, and he said they'll get to know who he is and where he stands. He blamed the poor primary showing on not having the money to buy ads on Chicago TV stations - a problem he does not expect to have in the fall.
"That's why we're here," Brady said. "We're going to camp out in Cook and the collar counties."