Republican candidate for Illinois Governor Kirk Dillard can easily say, "The enemy of my enemy, is my friend." Bruce Rauner, another candidate for Illinois Governor and the current frontrunner, is Dillard's political enemy. Rauner has declared that "labor union bosses" are his enemy.
Dillard yesterday received the endorsement of Rauner's enemy, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, adding to the significant statewide support that he's received in the past two weeks. Council 31 represents 100,000 public service workers and retirees in the state of Illinois.
"We believe that Kirk Dillard would be the best choice in the Republican primary because he has a long record of public service and demonstrated understanding of state government," Henry Bayer, executive director for AFSCME Council 31, said. "He rejects the demonization of public employees – the teachers, state police and correctional officers, caretakers for those with disabilities, and thousands of others who provide the vital public services that Illinois citizens demand."
Bayer underscored Dillard's vast experience in Springfield in making the endorsement. "We believe Kirk Dillard, with his long experience in the Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar administrations, as well as the state senate, is the responsible choice in the Republican race for governor.”
Dillard said he was honored by AFSCME's strong support. "I can't tell you how much this means to me and my campaign," Dillard said. "We owe a great deal to the tens of thousands of hard working public service employees across our state, and their support is resonating with their friends and families who know that we must bring new leadership to Springfield."
Expect Rauner to produce ads blasting the endorsement of Dillard by AFSCME, which is a two-edge sword. It would of course highlight Rauner's hatred of unionism, which appeals to a group of Republicans. It could also outrage moderate Democrats and even Republicans to the point of a voter backlash.
During a WGN-TV forum last evening, Dillard said that electing Rauner for governor is akin to "putting a rat in charge of the cheese."
The endorsements from the public unions drew fire at the WGN-TV forum from Rauner, who has made attacks on public employee unions a staple of his first-time bid for public office. "Why are you running in the Republican primary? I think you should be running in the Democratic primary. The government union bosses are at the core of our spending problem in Illinois. It’s a conflict of interest for the taxpayers. Those are the exact same groups that supported Pat Quinn, supported the Democratic Governors Association and helped get us into the financial mess we’re in," Rauner added.
In response, Dillard said that Rauner, a venture capitalist and a wealthy private equity investor from Winnetka, "doesn’t quite get it that a third of the people of these unions that he likes to demonize are Republican primary voters."
Then Dillard went on one of his favorite Rauner attacks: Rauner's connections with Stuart Levine, a corrupt figure in the investigation that brought down former Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Levine was a consultant for a health care firm in which Rauner’s company later made an investment. Levine also sat on the board of the state Teachers Retirement System, the pension plan for teachers outside Chicago, when Rauner’s firm was looking for additional investment business.
"How can you call yourself an outsider when you paid the biggest, most infamous mastermind of political corruption in Illinois, Stuart Levine, who sits in a federal penitentiary today," Dillard said. "Isn’t it a conflict of interest to take $50 million of moneys from the Teacher Retirement System when Mr. Levine, your employee, is sitting on the board?"
In addition to the AFSCME endorsement of Dillard, he also received endorsements from the Illinois Education Association, which represents 130,000 teachers and professional staff statewide, the more than 100,000 members Illinois Federation of Teachers and the 36,000 members of the Illinois Retired Teachers Association.
Dillard earlier this week released his jobs plan for Illinois, calling it making Illinois a Destination Economy. The plan outlines a broad vision for getting the state's fiscal house in order, cutting excessive regulations and encouraging businesses to grow and create new jobs.
"I'm excited to have AFSCME join our campaign. Together, we'll roll up our sleeves and make Illinois work again," Dillard said.
Kirk Dillard campaign interview
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