For the state of Illinois, much is at stake in the race for governor this year. The portent has been much reflected in the rhetoric among the four candidates seeking the Republican nomination, despite sometimes spinning off into the realm of the troublingly bizarre. The objective, however, must not waver from one simple question: Who offers the best alternative to lead the state out of its present ethical, procedural and economic morass and put Illinois back where it should be among the most robust, the most efficient, the most functional states in the nation?
On the GOP ballot, the answer is the team of state Sen. Kirk Dillard and state Rep. Jil Tracy.
Much of our faith in the Dillard-Tracy candidacy dates back more than two decades to the last time when Illinois government had to be dragged out of dysfunction and decline. It then was Gov. Jim Edgar who demonstrated the budgetary discipline, political will and legislative aplomb to bring spending and revenues into alignment and produce a healthy budget surplus. Precisely how much of that turnaround is owed to Edgar's chief of staff, Dillard, may be open to debate, but without question he was a key architect, adviser and coordinator.
To be sure, the hard economic times Illinois slogs through today can sometimes make those of the mid-1990s feel tame by comparison, and that can make the candidacy of a talented outsider like Bruce Rauner very tempting. But ultimately, the nature of Illinois' political and economic problems is such that experience with the system, players and process is a decided advantage. As ineffectual as Illinois government is, there is great risk in simply blowing it all up and starting from scratch. None of that risk is necessary with Dillard. Through his years in government and as a state senator, he knows where the system can best be fixed and he knows how to work with key players in both parties to fix it.
Dillard also brings to this race a suburban background that offers particular appeal for suburban voters. His vision is concentrated on the good of the entire state, but his suburban roots help ensure that the interests of our region will figure into the dialogue and the solutions that emerge.
And we come to this decision knowing we have serious differences with Dillard on some positions. His vote against gay marriage last November departs from our position, and his vote in December against pension reform -- despite his previous votes of support for the basic provisions of the final reform bill -- smacks of political opportunism. On the former issue, we trust his repeated statements that he's ready to accept the verdict of the legislature on gay marriage and on the latter, we will take him at his word for the moment, that his reservations about pension reform were not about the spirit of the bill but about the sweeteners potentially hidden within it that lawmakers didn't have time to root out.
Without question, issues involving public pensions will continue to pressure the state budget and economy, demanding a precise mix of firm discipline, visionary leadership and cooperative innovation -- with an emphasis on discipline when it comes to telling special interests "no" and creating budgets with income and revenue in sync.
Dillard has built his campaign and his legislative career on moderate, economically sound principles -- reflected in his staunch support for the scheduled repeal of the state income tax, for important systemic reform of workers' compensation and for other business-friendly policies. All of which, by the way, are also reflected in his choice of running mate -- Tracy, an experienced leader in the state House whose successful family business experience makes her a compelling fit for the role of business advocate and regulation cop that Dillard sees for her.
With Illinois at an economic crossroads, each GOP candidate for governor -- state Sen. Bill Brady, Treasurer Dan Rutherford, Rauner and Dillard -- brings his own individual strengths. Ultimately, the candidate with the best combination of meaningful experience, opposition to the status quo, assertive, courageous leadership and clearly articulated vision is Kirk Dillard. He gets our endorsement.