State Sen. Kirk Dillard has no suburban competition so far in the 2014 GOP race for Illinois governor, and he hopes it stays that way.
Though the Hinsdale Republican touted himself as a man of the state at his gubernatorial campaign kickoff Monday, he noted the thing that hindered his bid for the governor's office in 2010 is not in his way now.
"This time we don't have five people from DuPage (County) running," Dillard said.
Dillard lost the 2010 GOP primary to Bloomington state Sen. Bill Brady by just 193 votes as he split votes in the suburbs among a crowded field of local candidates while Brady drubbed the competition downstate. This time around, Brady, businessman Bruce Rauner and Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford have announced plans to seek the GOP nod in the governor's race.
Brady is already talking about the importance of doing better in the suburbs in this primary, and both Rauner and Rutherford have been courting suburban voters.
"That last election moved us, I believe, from a regional candidate who represents one Senate district to a candidate who's traveled the entire state and worked with people throughout the state," Brady said when he announced his bid.
Rauner, meanwhile, lectured to the public last month at Elmhurst College, and Rutherford has made many stops in the suburbs touting his I-Cash program for people to recoup unclaimed assets held by the state.
Courting suburban voters is more important than ever. More than 43 percent of the voters casting ballots in the 2010 general election for governor came from suburban Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties, according to records from the Illinois State Board of Elections. That amount has increased each election since 1998, when 39.4 percent of all votes cast in the governor's race came from the suburbs.
Democratic gubernatorial candidates also have received a major boost from suburban voters over the past few elections. In 1998, just under 30 percent of all the votes cast for the Democratic candidate came from the suburbs. By 2010, 42.3 percent of Democratic gubernatorial ballots came from suburban voters, according to state records.
The only Democratic candidate to declare so far is Chicago's Bill Daley, brother to former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and President Barack Obama's former chief of staff. Gov. Pat Quinn, who was born in Hinsdale and grew up in Oak Park, is expected to announce he will seek another term. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced Monday she will not seek the Democratic nomination for governor.
Dillard is clearly not relying on the suburbs to carry him to the governor's office.
"I know Illinois," he said. "I've lived and worked in every one of its regions."
His campaign kicked off outside his boyhood home on Chicago's North Side Monday in front of roughly 20 supporters. His kickoff campaign rally four years ago was held in Hinsdale and featured scores more supporters.
Dillard campaign officials said launching this campaign in Chicago wasn't a slight to the suburbs but part of a larger theme. Dillard is traveling the state and ending his campaign kickoff tour in Lombard Tuesday.
"The whole theme of this announcement swing is that Kirk Dillard is Illinois born and bred," said campaign spokesman Gary Mack. "He was born in Chicago, lives in DuPage, worked in Springfield, wife is from the Decatur area and he went to Western Illinois University. We are sticking to the theme and starting off where he was born."
Rutherford also talked of the importance of uniting voters from all over the state.
"I'm the only Republican that's won a statewide race," Rutherford told reporters last week.
Suburban party leaders say voters care more about issues than a candidate's hometown.
"I would hope that voters will choose a candidate they feel is most qualified and not base votes primarily on where that candidate is from," said Barbara Wojnicki, Kane County Republican chairwoman.