BURR RIDGE - A group of 35 conservatives gathered at a hotel in Burr Ridge this past Saturday to vet candidates and endorse State Senator Kirk Dillard to be their 2014 Republican choice for governor.
The four current GOP candidates - Bruce Rauner, State Senator Kirk Dillard, State Treasurer Dan Rutherford and State Senator Bill Brady - were invited to speak before the group. Only Dillard and Brady attended.
"Illinois now requires the leadership of an authentic conservative who respects, and commands the respect of, a diverse array of constituencies across our state," attorney Joe Morris said after Dillard was dubbed as "strongly preferred" with 32 votes and three abstaining. None of the other three candidates received support.
"[Illinois needs a leader] whose commitment to putting the state's fiscal house in order is firm; whose competence in government management has been tested and proven; and whose opposition to corruption is unquestioned. Kirk Dillard is such a leader, and Illinoisans should unite to make him the next Governor of our state."
Sen. Brady, who lost as the ILGOP's 2010 candidate for governor, told the attendees that he is best positioned to win in 2014 because of the campaign structure he built in 2010, and the lessons he learned, in his loss to Democrat Gov. Pat Quinn. Brady also argued that his colleague State Sen. Kirk Dillard was unelectable because he appeared in a 2008 ad praising Barack Obama.
When asked about his 2012 vote supporting drivers licenses for illegal aliens, Brady assured the group that as governor he would not sign legislation giving amnesty to illegals living in Illinois. He reiterated the point when queried further about his vote to give in-state tuition to illegal aliens.
Brady bristled when questioned about his vote earlier this year to retain State Sen. Christine Radogno as Senate Minority Leader. He answered, "Radogno was considered the best leader," and then questioned how anyone outside the GOP Senate caucus learned the results of the secret ballot vote.
After Brady, Sen. Dillard assured the group that while he's proud to have been former Gov. Jim Edgar's Chief of Staff, he is "more conservative" than Edgar, and is his "own man." Dillard promised the group conservatives would have unprecedented access to him, and that he would appoint, and regularly meet with, a committee of conservatives to strategize on public policy. He also promised to appoint conservatives to cabinet positions, as well as boards and committees.
Asked about his vote on drivers' licenses for illegal aliens, Dillard said State Farm and Allstate Insurance convinced him that requiring illegals to take a test before driving on the roads would lead to safer highways for everyone.
When asked about his position on abortion, he reiterated that he is pro-life with rape and incest exceptions.
When asked about gambling expansion, he said he would try and pare down the number of casinos, preferring a second gas tax rather than gambling expansion to fund roads.
As to the 2008 ad he did praising Barack Obama, Dillard told the attendees he has never supported Obama, but that the ad does give him some credibility in the Black community.
Dillard briefly assessed his opponents, saying Rutherford voted for civil unions and Rauner is socially liberal. About Brady, Dillard said he had his chance in 2010 and came up short in the suburbs and among minorities.
David Smith of Illinois Family Action joined the support for Senator Dillard saying, "Senator Kirk Dillard recognizes the importance of Illinois' most valuable resource -- families -- and he understands that our state's well-being is closely tied to the strength of this resource. I am confident that, if elected as governor, Dillard will work to strengthen and uphold family, marriage, life and liberty."
And businessman Jim Nalepa, who recently ran for the position of State Party Chairman explained his support for Dillard, saying, "In prior elections, I have supported both Senator Dillard and Senator Brady. However, only one showed the passion and focus to win the General Election and lead Illinois out of the wilderness. Senator Kirk Dillard will make a great Governor."