Jim Oberweis, who placed second in the 2006 GOP gubernatorial primary, says he is ready to endorse primary winner State Treasurer Judy Baar-Topinka over incumbent Governor Rod Blagojevich.
But she hasn't asked him yet.
"It's unbelievable," Oberweis told Illinois Review during a recent interview in his far west suburban home. "If I would have won, I would have called her immediately -- before the unity breakfast -- and asked for her support."
Oberweis, dairy owner and investor, said he's been trying to get a meeting with the treasurer through her campaign manager Brian McFadden. Oberweis was scheduled to leave for a ten day trip to China and hoped to visit with Topinka upon his return.
"It won't help if conservatives sit on their hands during this election," he said. "Blagojevich is heading this state towards financial disaster. We must take steps to turn around this anti-business climate. Judy is the Republican candidate, and she has my support."
Oberweis' endorsement flies in the face of conservative millionaire Jack Roeser, who spent $400,000 on Oberweis' 2006 gubernatorial primary efforts.
"I don't agree with Jack Roeser's attacks on Topinka. Jack really cares about Illinois and wants honest politicians and he's not in politics for the money. But we should support the voters' choice," he said.
Since his six point loss to Topinka, Oberweis backers have pointed fingers at other conservative primary contenders who refused to drop out of the race.
Does Oberweis blame Downstate State Senator Bill Brady for his loss?
"I would have changed some things, there's no doubt. I would have started earlier with some television ads and I would have hoped either Bill Brady or Ron Gidwitz would have seen the light," Oberweis said. "But it's an open political system we have here, and they invested a lot in the campaign. It would have been asking a lot for either of them to drop out."
Post-primary support of the GOP winner first became an issue in 2002, when former State Senator Patrick O'Malley, who placed second to Attorney General Jim Ryan, chose not to publicly endorse the primary winner.
Oberweis says he is very proud of how his gubernatorial campaign brought out the issue of political corruption. He now sees a division in the Republican Party as no longer between those with liberal and conservative leanings.
"I see the atmosphere changing from a conservative/liberal split to an insider/outsider division. Power structure versus reformer. Some of the nastiness since the primary has been insane and destructive," he said.
"After the primary, we focus on the Democrats and we support the party nominee."
Oberweis says he will be happy to help Republican candidates throughout the state, and intends to stay engaged in party politics. He doesn't deny he might be interested in succeeding his current congressman House Speaker Denny Hastert when he retires.
"There's a lot of talk about who would like to follow Denny," he said, mentioning State Senator Chris Lauzen and House Minority Leader Tom Cross, both who live in Hastert's district. "I'm sure it will be another competitive race."
Until then, Oberweis says, he intends to focus on expanding Oberweis Dairy into foreign markets and is seriously considering delving into a bakery division. He also plans to get married in December to a girl he's known for 35 years.
All that, as well as stay involved politically, he said.
"I still have a desire to help clean up the state's Republican Party, straighten the financial disaster we have in Illinois and look to correcting the mess in Washington, D.C., " Oberweis said. "I'm willing to help or serve in anyway possible."
Coming in second place in two U.S. Senate races and one gubernatorial primary hasn't affected the genuine and kind nature of Jim Oberweis. On that, he's first rate.
Maybe next time, Jim.