Some people say Republicans are stuck in the 1950s. That’s not true of state Sen. Kirk Dillard, who announced a second campaign for governor of Illinois on Thursday. Senator Dillard is stuck in the 1990s, when he was chief of staff to Gov. Jim Edgar. A Springfield reporter I know once joked that Dillard cannot get through an interview without bringing up Edgar, the state’s last governor to serve a full term in office without going to prison.
That’s quite an achievement, but basing his political appeal on service to a governor who left office 14 years ago doesn’t make Dillard look like a fresh doughnut, especially when he may be running against 31-year-old Rep. Aaron Schock.
During a visit to Ward Room’s election night coverage, Edgar remarked that he might not be conservative enough to win a primary in today’s Republican Party. Dillard may be taking that lesson from his mentor, too. He lost the 2010 Republican primary to state Sen. Bill Brady by 193 votes, and seems determined not to get out-Tea Partied again. In August, Dillard led 11 legislators of both parties in an amicus brief to a motion filed by the conservative Thomas More Society. The Society sought to dismiss a lawsuit against Illinois’s gay marriage ban filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Lambda Legal Defense Fund.
According to a press release from the Thomas More Society:
The legislators assert that the judicial branch should not rewrite the state’s marriage laws, stating that “to do so would be to place the court in a position of acting as a super-legislature, nullifying laws it does not like. That is not our proper role in a democratic society.” They also argue that such action would “dramatically interfere with the constitutional guarantee of separation of powers by which the general assembly is empowered to make public policy….”
The legislators also cite several sociological arguments stating that “… the marriage structure that helps children the most is a family headed by two biological parents ….” The legislators also supported the religious liberty concerns raised by the amicus brief, also filed this week by the Catholic Conference of Illinois, and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod also filed this week, who urged that “of great concern to us is hostility that may be shown to Illinois’ religious minorities” who oppose same-sex marriage.
Get over it, Dillard. Four states voted in favor of gay marriage on Tuesday, and I’ll bet Illinois would have joined them, had a referendum appeared on our ballots. Resisting gay marriage is so 1994, when Republicans used gay marriage referendums to scare up conservative votes. Especially in a blue state. That ship has sailed, and no one cares what the sailors are doing together in their berths.
Dillard voted against the civil unions bill, along with every other Republican senator except Dan Rutherford, who is also running for governor, and who believes abortion and gay marriage should not be litmus tests for Republicans. And Schock is selling an image as a post-Reagan Republican too young to share his party’s obsessions on race and sex.
I believe that if Dillard had beaten Brady, he would be governor now. I also believe that 2010 was Dillard’s moment, and that he’s going to look like a three-button Men’s Wearhouse suit from the Junior League twice-around shop against Schock’s modern, slim-cut style.
Dillard blew me off for an interview in 2009, when I was researching a book about Barack Obama. (Dillard collaborated with Obama on an ethics reform bill and cut an ad for him during the 2008 Democratic primary.) He later insisted he didn’t remember me, even though he sent me a Facebook message thanking me for understanding why he had to cancel our scheduled lunch, since he was running for governor at the time. I believe it, because a) politicians meet tons of people, and b) I’m a pretty bland guy, which is why I write the blog for NBC5 instead of anchoring the five o’clock news. But I still want to talk to Dillard, so I can ask him about his plans for balancing Illinois’s budget and reforming its pension system, just like I asked Rutherford. So, Senator Dillard, if you’re reading this, give me a call.