Republicans need to get their act together. The 2012 election proved that we need to reassess our party. We have a tremendous opportunity to hit the “reset” button and start over.

Believe it or not, before cutting taxes and downsizing government, conservatives need to win elections. And the way we win is by electing real leaders. People, especially the independent voters we need to win elections, like good leaders.

Facts speak for themselves. Be it with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker trouncing teacher’s unions and winning a recall election against $10.75 million worth of negative ads from unions, or a then-unscathed Governor Christie winning with60 percent of the vote in the blue state of New Jersey fighting key Democratic constituencies, leadership through adverse situations gets results at the ballot box.

Walker and Christie both share something a lot more important, however. As conservative as they may be, they’re both bipartisan. They both worked with their Democratic counterparts and got things done.

That’s where the Republican Illinois Primary comes into play. Illinois currently has four gubernatorial candidates. One has been accused of sexually harassing his male employee: Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who allegedly grabbed Ed Michalowski’s genital area and asked him to spend the night. Another is State Senator Bill Brady, who’s running for a third time but who’s well-known for his staunch social conservatism. Incumbent Governor Pat Quinn defeated Brady in 2010 by appealing to female suburban voters and emphasizing Brady’s socially conservative positions.

Then comes businessman and millionaire Bruce Rauner. Rauner is a man with no public record, but he does have a long track record of cooperation with current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. He also has troubling involvement in a lawsuit against GTCR, Rauner’s private equity company. The firm was charged with neglecting proper healthcare for patients in one of Rauner’s retirement homes, Auburdale Oak Healthcare Center. The charges are potentially toxic for average voters, and it smells of the same old Illinois ruined with corruption–be that corruption in the public sector with Former Governor Rob Blagojevich or with the private sector in Rauner’s dealings.

That leaves State Senator Kirk Dillard.

Dillard is a proven conservative with an extensive voting record. Most importantly, Dillard worked across the aisle on many occasions bringing Boeing’s headquarters to Chicago, sponsoring landmark ethics and election reforms, and working as the Chief of Staff for Governor Jim Edgar to lower the unemployment rate in the 1990‘s and improve Illinois’s credit rating. It’s his conservative convictions combined with his bipartisan streak that will make Illinois strong again, instead of driving out thousands of residents and businesses to neighboring states like Indiana and Wisconsin.

There are no scandals with Dillard either. The one that comes closest is his dealings with then State Senator Barack Obama to champion ethics reforms, but it’s no “scandal” at all. It’s that willingness to work with Democrats and those with which we disagree with that shows true leadership, not blind ideological positions that cannot achieve results. Republicans need to understand that we are electing someone to represent Illinois as a whole, not a red-state like Texas or Utah. Dillard is right for Illinois by walking that main-stream conservative line.

At the end of the day, Dillard is equipped with key expertise. He has led on fiscal issues. As an Illinois resident myself, I know that we need someone who can move the state ahead. We need to address both the unemployment and underemployment rates to which young people contribute in very large numbers. Many are seeking employment elsewhere, leaving the state with a larger debt by diminishing public revenues.

That’s the issue with Illinois. There hasn’t been a true leader in the last decade that has tackled those issues that are so important to all residents of Illinois. Current Governor Pat Quinn has only continued Blagojevich’s policies, and has been recently accused of corrupt dealings with a $54.5 million anti-violence program. Quinn mishandled the funding and spending of the program.

It’s time to turn the page on the Democratic machine and pick an electable, experienced Republican. A Republican like Dillard, with conservative principles and the ability to get things done in “blue” Illinois, would be just the man for the job.


Alex Uzarowicz | Knox College | @AUzarowicz