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updated: 3/18/2014 11:15 PM

Dillard says he's a 'winner no matter what'

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  • Video: Dillard watches returns

  • State Sen. Kirk Dillard smiles at his supporters as he awaits election results at Ashyana Banquets in Downers Grove on Tuesday.

       State Sen. Kirk Dillard smiles at his supporters as he awaits election results at Ashyana Banquets in Downers Grove on Tuesday.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • State Sen. Kirk Dillard, wife Stephanie and their daughters Emma, 12, and Ava, 10, leave their Salt Creek Club polling place in Hinsdale after he voted Tuesday.

       State Sen. Kirk Dillard, wife Stephanie and their daughters Emma, 12, and Ava, 10, leave their Salt Creek Club polling place in Hinsdale after he voted Tuesday.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
 

State Sen. Kirk Dillard risked it all to be Illinois' next governor.

The unlucky toss of the dice cost the longtime political fixture his state senate seat but he was unrepentent after preliminary results showed businessman Bruce Rauner clinching the race for Republican nominee for governor in Tuesday's primary.

The Hinsdale attorney said he wasn't bitter. "I'm a winner no matter what happens tonight," he said. "I'm a faith-based person. Whatever happens, happens."

Dillard did acknowledge he wanted the governship "badly."

"I have a track record of working with Democratic legislators. I made the state live within its means. I know I'm the best to lead the state in a bipartisan way."

And he encouraged the Republican party to build the "broad-based coalition," he'd developed. It makes no sense to "demonize teachers and working people," he said.

In a private room watching primary election results, Dillard said, "I campaigned until 7:01 p.m. Now, "I'm at the mercy of the voters."

"It's like in the NBA, all you want is to be there in the last two minutes," said Dillard, with his wife Stephanie and daughters Emma, 12, and Ava, 10, at his side. "It all comes down to turnout."

A crowd of anxious Dillard supporters at Ashyana Banquets in Downers Grove watch a significant Rauner lead most of the night but the gap closed at one point, leading to cheers and excitement. "I've known him for a long time ... he remembers who you are," Dillard voter Paul Kempf of Downers Grove said.

Dillard said he risked his senate seat because "I'm frustrated and only the governor can effect the kind of change Illinois needs." His senate term ends in January, leaving him out of elected office if he does not win governor.

This is the second time Dillard has run for the Republican nomination for governor. In 2010, he was hamstrung by rivals from his home county of DuPage.

This time, he gave up his seat only to face a formidable opponent in wealthy businessman Rauner.

Dillard admitted, "It's not easy the second time around."

Dillard was first elected in 1994.

Dillard, who's viewed as a moderate by some, didn't connect with the GOP's base four years ago. He ended up losing by less than 200 votes to conservative Sen. Bill Brady, who was also in this year's gubernatorial primary along with Treasurer Dan Rutherford and Rauner.

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