So, is every unmarried, middle-aged Republican going to have to deal with rumors that he is an, ahem, confirmed bachelor?
Sen. Mark Kirk married in his early 40s and divorced a decade later, without having children. During the 2010 campaign, he told a TV reporter he hoped to get married again.
“To a woman?” she asked.
“Yes,” he answered. “To a woman.”
After Kirk took office, his ex-wife filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission charging that his campaign had concealed $143,000 in consulting fees to his mistress.
So much for those rumors.
Now, state Sen. Kirk Dillard is telling reporters that only a family man is fit to be governor.
“I really believe just for our state’s image and for the way a governor thinks, you need a first family in a traditional sense back in the governor’s residence,” Dillard, the father of two tween daughters, said to WLS Radio.
That was seen as an innuendo about state Treasurer Dan Rutherford. The 58-year-old Republican frontrunner has never been married. As Capitol Fax’s Rich Miller put it:
I somehow doubt that Dillard was really referring to the divorced Gov. Quinn here, except as cover so he could deny that he was making an inappropriate insinuation about the life-long bachelor Rutherford.
This sort of thing used to be beneath Dillard. But losing a statewide primary by a mere 193 votes can mess with your mind. Until that 2010 gubernatorial bid, Dillard had always been known as something of a statesman. But that razor-thin loss pushed him further to the right and made him more of a partisan.
Except that Dillard, a strident opponent of same-sex marriage, isn’t the only one whispering about Rutherford. I’ve heard whispers from Democrats. It’s beneath them, too.
(Dillard later tried to backtrack, telling the State Journal-Register his comment “is not denigrating anybody’s ability who might want to hold the governor’s office.”)
Setting aside any questions about the reasons for Rutherford’s bachelorhood, it’s offensive to suggest that only members of “families in a traditional sense” are fit to hold office. First of all, only half of Americans are fortunate enough to be married. Second of all, Dillard’s standards would have disqualified many of this country’s greatest leaders from holding office. Among them:
-- George Washington: never had children of his own.
-- James Buchanan: Never married
-- Grover Cleveland: Entered the White House as a bachelor, married as president.
-- Sen. Margaret Chase Smith: Succeeded her late husband in Congress; never had children.
-- Sen. Richard Russell: Never married
-- Supreme Court Justices James McReynolds, David Souter, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan: Either never married, or, in Sotomayor’s case, divorced without having children.
As Rep. Ron Sandack is fond of saying, we no longer live in a “Father Knows Best” era, we live in a “Modern Family” era. Dillard is apparently still watching re-runs on Antenna TV.