Kirk Dillard: 'I'm ready to move on' from elected life
As Republican state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale steps aside, he says he's doing more looking forward than back.
His appointment to lead the Regional Transportation Authority means he's stepping down from his seat in the Illinois Senate by the end of July, several months earlier than expected.
"I will certainly miss the state Senate," Dillard said. "It's been a huge part of my life. I was an intern, a staff member, a governor's liaison to the Senate and a state senator."
Dillard was first appointed to the Senate in 1993, then elected for the first time in 1994. He has served DuPage County for more than 20 years.
"But I'm ready to move on," he said.
The longtime DuPage political fixture has held a high statewide profile this decade since his close-but-no-cigar primary campaigns for governor in each of the last two elections.
On Thursday, he pointed to major Illinois legislation he pushed like a significant package of ethics reforms in the late 1990s with then-Democratic state Sen. Barack Obama.
Among other things, it included the first requirement that campaign finance reports, now considered indispensable by many interested in politics, be published online.
Dillard also said he was proud of legislation of local import, like plans that led to a DuPage County program to provide respite care to medically fragile children and to lure Navistar to Lisle.
Now that he'll head up the RTA board, Dillard says his political activities will slow and that he's unlikely to run for office in the future. "I'm really stepping back from elected political life," he said.
Dillard says he'll still help candidates he believes in but won't feel obligated to help every Republican.
"I can pick and choose who I help now," he said.
He ends his elected political life with $58,000 in campaign funds, which he could use to support other candidates if he wanted to.
What's changed since 1993? Dillard says the Senate is run in a less regimented way than it was under Republican Senate President James "Pate" Philip of Wood Dale.
And, he says, the makeup is different.
"The Senate is made up of much younger members than when I began," says Dillard, 59.
And, he said, there are fewer reporters covering the state Capitol, resulting in more coverage of scandal than substance.
On that note ...
While last week's flap over the racially charged language used by radio personality and former Congressman Joe Walsh kept him off the air for only about an hour, the dust-up has seeped into at least one suburban campaign.
State Rep. Sam Yingling, a Grayslake Democrat, sent out a statement this week criticizing his opponent, Republican Rod Drobinski of Wauconda, for attending an event at Walsh's home over the weekend, days after his very public controversy.
"In the middle of a media storm set off by Walsh's hideous references to African-Americans and Latinos, Drobinski cozies up to him," Yingling said.
Drobinski, a Lake County prosecutor, said he doesn't listen to talk radio much and was there to thank campaign volunteers who had helped out for four hours on a hot Sunday.
"I showed up there to thank a lot of good people who knocked on a lot of doors for me," Drobinski said.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove also went, as did GOP state Senate candidate Don Wilson of Gurnee.
Third-party and independent candidates filed their slates for statewide office this week. Here's who they have running for governor.
Libertarian: Chad Grimm of Peoria.
Green: Scott Summers of Harvard.
Constitution: Michael Oberline of Virden.
Independent: Michael Hawkins of Bridgeview.
Independent: Gregg Moore of Chicago.
So far, Rob Sherman of Buffalo Grove has challenged whether Hawkins' and Moore's petition signatures are worthy of them getting a ballot spot.