CHICAGO – Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford announced Sunday that he is seeking the Republican nomination in the 2014 governor’s race, saying he wants to tackle the state’s nearly $100 billion pension shortfall and backlog of unpaid bills and help foster an environment in which businesses can create jobs.
Rutherford, 58, said it won’t be easy for a Republican to be elected governor in the Democratic-leaning state. But he believes he has the best chance because out of all the Republicans considering a bid, he’s the only one who’s won a statewide election.
“Illinois is in need of help, but we can turn it around,” Rutherford said at a news conference in Chicago, the first stop on a three-day statewide tour that also will include Springfield, Pontiac, Rockford and Kankakee.
Rutherford, a Pontiac native and former longtime state lawmaker, has been hinting for months that he planned to run for governor.
He likely will face a crowded field of GOP contenders. State Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard also have expressed interest. Venture capitalist Bruce Rauner has, too.
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has said he’ll seek re-election, but could face challenges from within his own party. Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan are considering runs.
Rutherford was elected treasurer in 2010 and served as a state representative and state senator for years. Before entering politics, he was an executive with ServiceMaster in suburban Downers Grove.
He seeks office at a rocky time for the Illinois GOP.
Since suffering major losses in November, members of the party have faced public infighting over issues that also divide the national party.
Earlier this month, Pat Brady resigned as chairman of the Illinois Republican Party. He cited personal reasons but was under attack by conservatives who didn’t like his public support of same-sex marriage.
Republicans on Saturday chose lobbyist Jack Dorgan of Rosemont as the party’s new chair, hoping he could bridge gaps between the party’s conservative and moderate wings.
Rutherford said Sunday he has a track record of reaching out to people and communities “with different colors and ethnicities ... and also with other beliefs.” He said the Republican Party and other GOP candidates need to do the same.
“My party’s not been that good at it,” he said. “You don’t have to be with someone 100 percent of the time to be a good Republican. I understand that there are people that have a different position on the social issues than some, and they are still good Republicans.”