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updated: 9/6/2011 4:40 AM

Connelly calls state Senate bid surprise development

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  • State Rep. Mike Connelly, a Lisle Republican.

    State Rep. Mike Connelly, a Lisle Republican.


Looking at the newly drawn legislative map, state Rep. Mike Connelly says he gauged the 21st state Senate seat -- which includes large swathes of Naperville, Wheaton, Carol Stream and Lisle -- as a "great district."

It is, after all not only Republican leaning, but familiar territory -- he's represented roughly 65 percent of the population in the 48th state House District, and as a former Lisle trustee and DuPage County Board member.

At the time, the Lisle Republican said, he had no plans to consider making a bid for the Senate seat.

But after college and friend John Millner's Friday announcement that he wouldn't pursue a bid for a third term in order to devote more time to caring for his ailing wife, Connelly has changed course.

"It's not how I thought it would be," Connelly said in a Monday interview. "It's really sad that John has had to make this decision."

Connelly said he and Millner kept in close contact throughout the summer.

Connelly said he did a bit of "pinch hitting" at GOP events in DuPage County when Millner, a Carol Stream Republican, was spending vital time with his family.

Yet, "really, up until a day before the announcement, it was full steam ahead (for him)," Connelly said.

Millner said he will endorse Connelly for the race.

"He knew of my background with the county and the village and said 'I'd really like to see you replace me, I think you'd be the guy for this district,'" Connelly said.

Millner, a former Elmhurst police chief who has served in the state Senate since 2005, and in the state House for two years before that, has a strong reputation for reaching across the aisle. Connelly says he believes he also brings a strong bipartisan background to the table.

"When you're in the minority as we (Republicans) are," Connelly said, "you have no choice but to develop strong relationships with the other side."

In his two terms as a state representative, Connelly says he's most proud of sponsoring legislation that mandates state contracts be bid on through an online reverse auction process. If elected to the Senate, making Illinois a friendlier business climate would be high on his agenda.

Connelly says he's also endorsed by 6th District Congressman Peter Roskam, Naperville Mayor George Pradel and state Rep. Darlene Senger.

"I've spent the past 72 hours making phone calls," he said. "It's kind of humbling. You don't know what the reaction will be or what people will say."