HINSDALE – Sen. Kirk Dillard supporters grew more and more optimistic Tuesday evening as gubernatorial poll numbers creeped closer by the hour.
When a chant rang out of, “Dillard, Dillard, Dillard!” at about 9 p.m. from the crowd at the senator’s election party – held at Ashyana Banquets in Downers Grove – the Hinsdale Republican was within percentage points of venture capitalist Bruce Rauner.
But shortly before 10:30 p.m., a string of soft “boos” were uttered as Rauner appeared on the television screen being and was declared winner of the GOP gubernatorial primary over Dillard, his closest competitor, Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale.
“I could not have a more loyal, and hard working and great band of supporters,” Dillard said, after he conceded the race.
Dillard said it was a “very close election,” and thanked everyone who voted and showed support for the campaign. He added that it’s been an “unbelievable” eight months spent criss-crossing Illinois and meeting supporters.
“We’ve been telling the same old story, the state of Illinois is broken and it isn’t working,” Dillard said.
The polls ended closer than several experts predicted heading into election night, as Rauner collected 40 percent to Dillard’s 37 percent. State Sen. Bill Brady and Treasurer Dan Rutherford conceded earlier Tuesday, setting up a two-man race between Dillard and Rauner.
This is the second time Dillard a gubernatorial primary race narrow by a narrow margin. In 2010, Brady defeated Dillard by 193 votes, but Brady could not upend Quinn in the race for governor.
After the dust settled Tuesday, Dillard congratulated Rauner on running a good campaign with a good message. Dillard also applauded running mate Jil Tracy, explaining that while their campaign that was not flashy, it provided statewide solutions.
“Jil and I offered fresh ideas, new solutions and we were ready and tested and prepared to bring about the change this state really needs,” he said.
If elected, Dillard said one of his goals was to end the “one city one party” control of the state. While Dillard and Tracy will not be able to act upon the vision, they plan to remain proud Illinoisans
“This is our state, this is where we want our children to live and we will do whatever we can as citizens of this state as we are both term limited ourselves running for governor and lieutenant governor,” Dillard said.
Rauner will now go on to face Gov. Pat Quinn, who won the democratic gubernatorial nominee Tuesday, in the November election.
“We’re honored and excited to go work for you,” Rauner said during his speech after being declared winner in the Republican primary. “Let’s bring back Illinois.”