Kirk Dillard is a man running two races.
The 19-year Illinois Senate Republican insists he's focused solely on defending his 24th District seat against Democrat A. Ghani in November's general election.
But the man who calls himself "the major voice of the suburbs in a rough and tumble environment in Springfield" told the Daily Herald Editorial Board Wednesday that a 2014 run at the governor's mansion is never far from his mind.
He came within 193 votes of winning the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary.
"I take one election cycle at a time but I have been moving around the state in an effort to help Republican candidates. I go to a lot of my colleagues' events and try to help them," Dillard said. "I'm seeking the input from a lot of folks through the state of Illinois whether I should run for governor again or not. They're telling me I have to run."
If re-elected in the 24th, Dillard promises to vote to cut between $4 billion and $6 billion from the state budget, let the income tax hike expire and, most importantly, get pension reform done. He criticized Gov. Pat Quinn for not having reforms passed already.
"Most people do not recognize that Pat Quinn has been the governor for nearly four years," Dillard said. "Pension reform should have been done, if he was a leader, years ago."
Dillard said if he was governor, he would lock himself in the mansion with the legislative leaders, union leaders and Ty Fahner of the Civic Committee until a pension deal was done.
"I would say 'We're going to the mansion and we're not coming out until it's done. We'll eat in the mansion. We'll spend the night in the mansion and nobody is leaving this mansion because we have a crisis of unparalleled proportion and there is nothing more important to the state of Illinois than solving our pension issue," Dillard said.
"It's killing us economically. You've got to have a governor with the moral authority to do that," he said. "That's the difference between me and Quinn. This state needs leadership and Pat's not a strong leader."
Dillard said he ran in the 2010 primary because he believed he had a unique set of skills to get things done in "a stagnated" Springfield.
"I believe the best template for a Republican to win the governorship on a statewide basis in a general election is a suburbanite with very strong downstate roots who will run well in Cook County and the city of Chicago like Ronald Reagan," he said. "And I think I'm that profiled person. I think I can win a general election. I got in last time because I didn't think the other (Republican) candidates could win the general election and I think I was right. I'm as fired up or maybe more fired up now than I was in 2010."
Ghani, Dillard's Democratic opponent in November, did not attend Wednesday's interview session and declined to answer a Daily Herald questionnaire.
"Has anyone seen Abdul Ghani? I've only met him once," Dillard said. "He's a Democrat in a heavily Republican district but I believe people should have choices. But if he's a serious candidate he ought to be at forums and visible in the community. And he's not."