CHICAGO (CBS) — State Sen. Kirk Dillard tried to steer clear of the controversy surrounding one of his rivals in the Republican race for governor, as he picked up a key endorsement from a major labor union.
WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports Dillard, the son of a teacher, picked up the backing of the Illinois Education Association, which represents teachers outside of Chicago, and has endorsed Dillard in the past.
“Throughout his career as a public servant, Senator Dillard has always been listening to teachers, and support staff, and to the students,” said IEA President Cinda Klickna.
Dillard also voted against the recent pension reform, which teachers unions are fighting in court.
Dillard acknowledged the IEA is among the unions GOP frontrunner Bruce Rauner, a billionaire venture capitalist, has criticized for its influence over state government.
“The Republican Party has one man in this race who demonizes working people, and members of organized labor. We should not do that. The Republican Party is not some exclusive club for people that wear neckties,” he said.
A spokesman for Rauner said it’s significant the union normally backs Democrats.
As for Dillard, he was trying to avoid wading into the scandal surrounding another GOP rival, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who has been sued for sexual harassment by a former aide, who also accused him of pressuring employees to do political work on state time.
“I feel sorry for the treasurer with his recent problems, and I’m going to let you all speculate on that,” Dillard said.
However, he acknowledged Rutherford has “issues” in his own bid in the Republican race to challenge Democratic incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn.
“There’s a problem, and a question, and we all work hard,” Dillard said. “He wants to be governor, like I do, and I don’t like to see anybody stumble.”