Rutherford tops GOP field at Champaign County event
URBANA — State Treasurer Dan Rutherford had an impressive showing in a straw poll Sunday of the four Republican candidates for governor, taken after each had made a brief speech at the Champaign County Republican Party's annual fall festival at Frasca Field in Urbana.
Rutherford, a central Illinois native who once served in the state Senate and represented a portion of Champaign County, got just over half of the votes cast (50.4 percent) at the event. In second place with 22.6 percent was wealthy venture capitalist Bruce Rauner of Chicago, followed by state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale with 19.1 percent.
The straw poll was a sharp rebuke of state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington, who got just 7.8 percent of the vote. Three years ago Brady was the party's gubernatorial candidate, and got 49 percent of Champaign County in a seven-way Republican primary election that year.
Rutherford stressed that he would reach out to parts of the state and demographic groups that have been overlooked by the Republican Party in the past.
"The statistics have shown that if you don't get 20 percent of the city of Chicago, it doesn't matter what you do in Champaign and Vermilion counties. If you don't get 20 percent in Chicago you don't win a statewide race," he said. "As your nominee for (treasurer), I got 22 percent of the city of Chicago (in 2010). Our Republican candidate that year (Brady) got 18. I won, he lost."
Rutherford, in a dig at Rauner, said he has been attending Republican Party functions for years.
"The way I did it was I just didn't show up just because I started running, like some are right now for governor," he said. "I've been coming here for years, and I've been in the city of Chicago when I was state rep and a state senator, campaigning in Latino districts and Asian districts and Polish districts and Jewish districts and African-American districts."
Noting that he had chosen Asian-American attorney Steve Kim as his running mate, Rutherford said that "if we are going to be successful and grow, we are going to have to diversify.
"We have to accept that there are people out there that should be, could be good Republicans that are a different skin color than us, that pray to a different God than us, they have a different accent than us, they have a different mother country than some of us western Europeans have."
Rutherford also pledged that if he is elected governor he would return to Champaign County and help elect other Republican officeholders.
"I've done it before as your legislator, I've done it as your treasurer and by golly that's my promise to you as governor," he said.
Rauner promised to "shake up Springfield," by leading the campaign for term limits, making Illinois pro-business and eliminating tenure for teachers. He said he favors charter schools and school vouchers.
Dillard said that "what the Democrats have done to the University of Illinois makes me sick," because of budget cuts.
"My wife and I are dedicated to the state, making it work again and also protecting and making sure that the University of Illinois always remains one of the top 10 public universities in this country," he said.