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updated: 3/20/2014 5:13 AM

Dillard 'looking forward, not backward' after loss

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  • State Sen. Kirk Dillard talks with state Sens. Pam Althoff, a McHenry Republican, and Michael Connelly, a Lisle Republican, on the floor of the state Senate Wednesday.

       State Sen. Kirk Dillard talks with state Sens. Pam Althoff, a McHenry Republican, and Michael Connelly, a Lisle Republican, on the floor of the state Senate Wednesday.
    Zachary White | Staff Photographer

 
 

Kirk Dillard has some "what ifs" but says he has no regrets as he prepares to return to life as a private citizen.

The longtime DuPage County lawmaker lost his bid for governor to Republican nominee Bruce Rauner in Tuesday's primary.

Dillard gambled his state Senate seat, which he's held since 1995, on a victory. He'll leave office in January.

"To make the changes I wanted -- I needed to be the governor," the Hinsdale attorney said. "Like a Cubs fan -- I've been heartbroken before. I'm looking forward, not backward."

Doubly frustrating for Dillard was the fact this was his second close loss in a gubernatorial primary.

In 2010, ill-fated campaigns by other DuPage politicians hamstrung his efforts, leading to Sen. Bill Brady winning by 173 votes.

Brady was Dillard's nemesis again this year. On Tuesday, Rauner received 40 percent of the vote compared to 37.2 percent for Dillard, 15.1 percent for Brady and 7.5 percent for state Treasurer Dan Rutherford.

Negative radio ads Brady aired against Dillard when Rauner was the front-runner mystified Dillard.

"I questioned the classiness of that," said Dillard, who recalled throwing his support to Brady after the 2010 primary. "It's not exactly the way to treat a colleague."

Another spoiler was Rutherford, whose race imploded early in the year after a sexual harassment lawsuit.

"If Dan Rutherford had gone out and endorsed me I would have won," Dillard said.

Dillard wants Rauner to defeat Gov. Pat Quinn in November. But he said in addition to Rauner's ties to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Quinn and running mate Paul Vallas are "City Hall guys," and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton are also Chicagoans, Dillard said.

"Having an all city-of-Chicago-controlled government ... there are implications to anyone who rides Metra or pays property taxes in the suburbs or who rides the tollway," Dillard said. "We need geographic balance ... and I'm not sure if the average voter understands how important it might have been to have a collar county governor."

Dillard also said Rauner is more liberal than the Republican base realizes. At a recent debate, Rauner said he thinks abortion is a decision between a woman, her family and her doctor and government shouldn't get involved. He has also contributed to Democrats, according to state records.

Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf said the Winnetka resident "spoke with Sen. Dillard and looks forward to working with him to defeat Pat Quinn by focusing on the issues that unite voters across party lines -- more jobs, value for tax dollars and better schools."

After almost two decades in Springfield, Dillard said he's proud of "landmark" legislative accomplishments. Among them is the truth-in-sentencing law -- "so those serving a life sentence really serve a life sentence." Ethics reforms that required financial disclosure online, he said, "changed everything and brought down Rod Blagojevich."

And he adds to those the creation of the Amber Alert system, capital punishment reforms and railway crossing safety provisions.

Close to home, Dillard said providing assistance to the Giant Steps school in Westmont for children with autism and to a facility in Woodridge serving medically fragile children are among his "great moments."

Rauner swept the suburbs, including Dillard's home county of DuPage.

Dillard attributed that to Rauner's multimillion-dollar TV blitz.

"I think Mr. Rauner's suburban support is a factor of record spending on television," Dillard said, noting that his own numbers escalated when he began running ads this month.

After nine months on the campaign trail, Dillard wants to take stock and reconnect with wife Stephanie and his daughters, fourth-grader Ava and seventh-grader Emma.

"I like the regular Sunday family routine of church and breakfast or lunch with the family, maybe a movie and hanging out with my kids," he said.

"It's a great honor to run for governor, but I want my life back," said Dillard, who specializes in corporate law and is a partner at Locke Lord. He added, "I'll stay active in civic life ... I'll see what opportunities are out there.

"I'm a very faith-based person, and that helps. I'm incredibly proud of the way I ran both races, I would have blown away whatever Democrat was up for the governorship and the state would have been very different had Kirk Dillard been governor."

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