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Local lawmakers split on GOP contest

Bivins behind Dillard; Demmer backs Brady

Published: Monday, March 10, 2014 12:28 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, March 10, 2014 10:47 p.m. CDT
FILE - This Feb. 4, 2014 file photos shows the four candidates running for the Illinois GOP gubernatorial nomination. (From left) State Sens. Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, and venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, taking part in a debate in Naperville. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

Local Republican lawmakers are divided in the race for their party's nomination for governor.

One person they are not supporting – Bruce Rauner, the wealthy private-equity investor who is leading in both fundraising and public opinion polls. Rauner is one of four Republicans seeking the nomination in next Tuesday's primary election.

First-term Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, supports state Sen. Bill Brady, a Bloomington Republican who lost in the 2010 general election to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, is backing fellow Sen. Kirk Dillard, a suburbanite who is running second in the polls. He also finished second to Brady for the GOP nomination for governor in 2010.

Another Dillard supporter is Rep. Jerry Mitchell, R-Sterling, Demmer's predecessor in the redrawn 90th District, who retired in 2012 after 18 years in the Legislature.

Demmer worked in Brady's 2010 campaign for governor.

"I have confidence in him," Demmer said. "He has proven himself as a leader in the General Assembly. He has a significant amount of private business experience and understanding of Springfield."

Brady won't shy away from the big issues, Demmer said. He joined the conference committee on pension reform and voted for a bill that is expected to cut billions from the pension system, Demmer added.

"He knew he had to get the job done," Demmer said.

Demmer also backed the pension legislation; Bivins and Dillard voted against it. Bivins argued it violated the state constitution, which bars the Legislature from impairing pension benefits.

Mitchell said he would have voted against the bill.

"It doesn't have a constitutional leg to stand on," said Mitchell, a retired school administrator. “You're taking away promises that were made years ago. People in those positions were counting on those benefits."

Mitchell supported Brady in the primary 4 years ago, but he decided to go with Dillard. Had Dillard won the primary in 2010, Mitchell said, he may well have been the governor today.

"I think his golden opportunity was last time around," Michell said.

Demmer viewed it differently.

"There are many people in politics who have run and lost and then gone on to win," he said.

Bivins, who also backed Brady last time, has switched allegiances because of Brady's losses over the years. Dillard, he said, has the experience to do the job, having once worked for Republican Gov. Jim Edgar.

"He can work with the other side," Bivins said. "In a one-party state like this, you have to have that ability."

So why not Rauner?

"He has not specified where he stands on a lot social issues," Bivins said. “I'm concerned that he's given so much money to Democrats. He has close ties to the mayor of Chicago. That's troubling to me."

Mitchell also cited Rauner's donations to Democrats and ties to Democratic Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

"He sounds good," Mitchell said. “He's buying this thing. He's flooded the airwaves and has for months."

Despite their endorsements, all three said they would support Rauner over Quinn.

Quinn faces Tio Hardiman, a poorly funded candidate from Chicago, in next Tuesday's Democratic primary election.

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