Dillard begins TV ads in GOP governor race

Public employee and teacher union support for state Sen. Kirk Dillard's campaign for governor has turned into TV ads with less than two weeks to go until the March 18 primary.

The unions have given Dillard the campaign cash he's needed to air his own TV spot starting this week, and a third-party group that had been running an anyone-but-Bruce Rauner campaign in past weeks has now begun airing spots in support of Dillard in the four-way GOP race.

The Republican Fund for Progress and Jobs hadn't been specifically naming Dillard, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford of Chenoa or state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington as the candidate it supported.

Now, “I think Kirk Dillard has earned that spot,” said Steven Shearer, the group's leader and former chief of staff to Peoria Republican U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock.

The union-backed group plans “a wide array of activities” on Dillard's behalf in the closing days of the campaign.

It won't be much longer before Republican primary voters weigh in on whether they value Dillard's union backing or whether the late-season TV push will be serious competition for Rauner's weeks of anti-Springfield messages.

Rauner pushes back

The Winnetka Republican tried to put a fine point on why some conservatives find it distasteful Dillard would be endorsed by public worker unions that have historically backed Democrats.

“Why are you running in the Republican primary?” Rauner asked Dillard at a debate Wednesday.

A closer look

As Dillard, of Hinsdale, tries to convince voters he has a wide geographic appeal, he sometimes uses the line, “Just outside of Cook County there's a place called Illinois.”

That's true. But there are a lot of Republicans inside Cook County.

In 2010, 159,034 Cook County residents voted for governor in the Republican primary.

The next two biggest totals came from DuPage County and Lake County, but their combined 140,577 votes is still fewer than the Cook County total.

And those three counties together provided almost 40 percent of the total GOP primary vote last time.

So on Election Night, you might see Illinois' 102 counties turn different colors as they choose different candidates. But remember the candidate who can win some big margins in the suburbs — and Cook County in particular — is most likely to win a date with Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in November.

A political flood

In Congress this week, local lawmakers split along party lines on a bill that would slow rising flood insurance rates as some people are worried suburban waters could rise again this spring.

A few years ago, a law championed by then U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert of Hinsdale sought to get federal flood insurance debt under control by raising premiums homeowners have to pay.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a Hoffman Estates Democrat, was among the Democrats who voted to cap rate increases this week. She argued the still-soft housing market means it's not a good time to add to homeowners' costs.

“It's just not the right time to do it,” Duckworth said.

Republican U.S. Reps. Randy Hultgren and Peter Roskam voted against it. The federal flood insurance program faces $24 billion in debt, and putting off rate increases puts off dealing with the debt.

No return trip

Duckworth was supposed to be in Sochi, Russia, today for the Paralympic Games opening ceremonies as part of a delegation of federal officials.

The athletes are there as planned, but the U.S. pulled its delegation after Russia's aggression toward Ukraine.

Coincidentally, Duckworth said she was last in Russia in 1980, the year the U.S. boycotted the Olympics in Moscow.

Her family was on the way back to the U.S. from a vacation in Thailand, and her father arranged for a two-day stop in Moscow.

“He just wanted us kids to see how great it was to be an American,” she said.

Picking sides

State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat, will debate a group of GED candidates today at the Palatine Opportunity Center.

They're debating whether to raise the minimum wage to prepare for essays on the GED exam where candidates have to make an argument.

Nekritz is taking the no-increase position for the sake of the debate.

How does she really feel?

She says she hasn't decided whether Quinn's push to raise the wage above $10 is a good idea but that she'll argue her side faithfully.

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Dillard gets AFSCME endorsement

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