DIXON — Kirk Dillard made no secret he is a gubernatorial hopeful for 2014.
While nothing is official, the state senator told fellow Republicans on Friday that he can work better with the state’s Democrats than any of his potential primary competitors. Dillard delivered the keynote speech at the 24th annual Reagan Day Dinner held at the Dixon Elks Lodge.
U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Manteno, State Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, State Rep. Donald Moffitt, R-Galesburg, and State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon also spoke.
The party reflected on the memory of former President Ronald Reagan, but also talked about building its future.
Dillard lost to fellow state Sen. Bill Brady by 193 votes in the 2010 Republican primary. Brady lost to Gov. Pat Quinn in the general election.
Dillard, who once was former Gov. Jim Edgar’s chief of staff, said “it’s really no secret” that he’s running again.
“We need a two-party system to make things work,” Dillard said. “I have a unique background. Under Gov. Edgar, we inherited a $1 billion deficit and left with $1.5 billion in the bank. I learned from him how to reach across the aisle and get Democrats to do what we have to do.”
Dillard said he also can bridge the gap between Chicago and downstate politics, reminding those in attendance that he got his start in Amboy working for Senate Republican leader David “Doc” Shapiro.
“I really think the most electable Republican governor is a suburban one, with strong downstate ties,” Dillard said. “It’s time we elect a Republican, and none that’s not from Chicago.”
Dillard, 55, spoke of his 9- and 11-year old children, and their future, as the foundation for all of his decisions, putting an emphasis on restoring Illinois as the “economic capital of the Midwest” by moving at a “business pace” of government.
Before Dillard spoke, Kinzinger took the lectern in front of a portrait of Reagan and shared a quote from the former president he felt could help guide the party. He had talked about how the party is being perceived as the “negative, angry” party and how it needs to refocus its message.
“’Whatever history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence rather than your doubts,’” Kinzinger said, reciting the quote. “That’s what Republicans should be about.”
Republican of the Year
Lee County Republican Party coordinator Jim Schielien on Friday was named Republican of the Year in Lee County. "He'll help any candidate and give him 110 percent," said Greg Witzleb, Lee County Republican chairman.