Republican state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington, who narrowly lost to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in 2010, kicked off a third bid for governor Wednesday contending he no longer is viewed as a regional Downstate candidate.
Speaking at a downtown Chicago hotel to start a campaign he described as more a matter of when than if, Brady decried what he called "a decade of debt, decay and despair" for Illinoisans under ruling Democrats. "It's time to finish the job we started four years ago," he said.
Like last time, Brady said he will focus on the state's financial problems instead of his strong social conservatism. The veteran lawmaker opposes abortion in all cases except for the life of the mother. On Wednesday, he explained his opposition to pending same-sex marriage legislation in Illinois on the day the U.S. Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional the federal government's refusal to recognize and grant benefits to such couples.
"The Supreme Court has ruled in the case of a woman's right to choose and there's not much a governor can do in that regard. Today, the Supreme Court has ruled on the issue of gay marriage and again, that will tie the hands of states," said Brady, who added he was bound to follow the court's ruling and the Constitution.
Brady had supported a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages and civil unions that did not make it onto the ballot. He said Wednesday that he would have to review the high court's opinion before restating his call for such a measure.
In the last GOP primary race for governor, Brady won the GOP nomination by 193 votes over state Sen. Kirk Dillard, of Hinsdale, in a seven-candidate contest, taking advantage of Downstate support in a field heavily laden with suburban candidates.
This time around, Dillard also is back, though he has not formally announced his candidacy, while new contenders have entered the GOP field, including wealthy investor Bruce Rauner, of Winnetka, and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, of Chenoa in central Illinois.
Rauner's wealth has made him the wild card in the still-developing race. Brady, owner of a home-building construction company that has faced financial difficulties as the housing market tanked, acknowledged Rauner had "a lot of money," but said money "doesn't win elections" and questioned whether Rauner's lack of knowledge about state government would help Illinois deal with its problems.
In the 2010 general election, Brady fell to Quinn by 31,834 votes out of nearly 3.46 million votes cast between the two. It was Quinn's first election for governor after replacing the impeached and ousted, and now imprisoned, Rod Blagojevich.
Quinn entered the final weeks of that campaign with a 28 percent job approval rating — a dismal figure likely to doom most candidates. The campaign had focused on Illinois' poor economy, enhanced by the effects of the recession and Quinn's support for an income tax hike. But the governor and his allies successfully refocused the race on Brady's social conservatism, primarily appealing to moderate suburban women.
Brady said his candidacy four years ago makes him a more recognizable figure outside of his central Illinois base and noted that he won 98 of the state's 102 counties, losing the most populous one, Cook County.
"The last election moved us, we believe, from maybe a (state) Senate candidate who represents a district to a candidate who has traveled the entire state and worked with people throughout the state," he said.
Citing what he said was his work with the Latino and African-American community on legislation, Brady said, "We need a larger turnout in those 98 counties that we won, and we need to get more votes in the four counties that we didn't, predominantly in Cook County."
Brady called Quinn "a nice guy," but said the governor has failed to deliver on jobs, the economy and pension reform. Brady is a member of a bipartisan conference committee of 10 House and Senate members that will hold its first meeting Thursday in trying to break a stalemate on changes to the state's massively underfunded public employee pension system.
Brady said he opposed Democratic leaders' efforts to shift pension costs for suburban and downstate teachers onto local taxpayers. The candidate said he's opposed to extending the 2011 state income tax increase past 2015, when the bulk of it is set to expire, calling that "non-negotiable."
Campaign finance reports show Brady had nearly $250,000 at the end of March and collected an additional $18,000 in donations of $1,000 or more since then.
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