CHAMPAIGN — On the University of Illinois campus to speak to business students, state Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, left little doubt that he intends to run again for governor in 2014. He is one of at least five Republicans considering the race.
Dillard ran in the GOP gubernatorial primary in 2010 and finished second to his Senate colleague, Bill Brady of Bloomington, by 193 votes.
Also Tuesday, Dillard said he will vote against legislation allowing gay marriage in Illinois. The measure is scheduled to come up for a vote on the Senate floor today.
"I will vote no on gay marriage. If the legislation is drawn properly, I have no problem with legalized civil unions, and I believe in equality," said Dillard, who voted against civil unions in Illinois in 2011. "But the way we saw the civil unions bill drafted and the way I believe they will present the gay marriage bill infringes on religious institutions."
He said the civil unions bill eventually led some religious-based social services to stop providing foster care in Illinois.
Further, he said that his Senate district "is conservative, it contains Wheaton College, and I am still have my constituents to think about as well. And they are opposed to gay marriage."
Dillard said that "cornerstone issues like the death penalty and gay marriage ought to be put to a statewide referendum, rather than to the fiat of a judge or a state's attorney or even the Legislature.
"But I believe that regular religious marriage, in my faith, is between a man and a woman."
Meanwhile, Dillard said he has "a unique skill set that is needed in Illinois, and a vision for making us a destination economy for job creation and an ability as a Republican to work with a Democrat Legislature to move the state forward."
Dillard hasn't announced that he will run for governor, but like Brady, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock and Winnetka businessman Bruce Rauner, he has been speaking at Lincoln Day dinners and other functions, and expressing interest in the job.
"No matter how many people are in the race, if I decide I'm really in — and I believe I am in — I will offer my skill sets to the people of Illinois and make this state work again," he said. "I think I have the right skills and that I am the right man at the right stage in my life to be the leader in the governor's office that we have lacked for a decade."
Dillard, 56, has served in the Legislature since 1993. He was a former chief of staff to Gov. Jim Edgar and was director of legislative affairs for Gov. James Thompson.
While speaking to a group of 14 undergraduate honors students in the UI's College of Business, Dillard said Illinois needs "a top-to-bottom look at our tax structure and our regulations on business" to improve its business climate.
"One of the criticisms you'll find of this state, and you'll find it no matter where you got to work, is that people can't get a decision, they can't get things out of the state bureaucracy," Dillard said. "If you want to license yourself as a business, it takes months. In Iowa, you can get those decisions quickly. This state needs to have a regulatory climate that works at the speed of business, not at the speed of government."
He also urged the students to remain in Illinois after they graduate. "I want you to do well. We've got to get this state working again," he said. "I want you to stay in Illinois."