MARION — Dan Rutherford’s election as Illinois governor is by no means certain.
The Pontiac Republican and current state treasurer acknowledged as much Monday morning, when he flew into Marion to kick off the Southern Illinois leg of his statewide campaign. But Rutherford said he’s always felt like the underdog, from his years of being both a private businessman and state legislator to his surprisingly successful long shot bid to win the treasurer’s office in 2010.
“It is not easy to campaign in Illinois as a Republican and win,” Rutherford told a modest crowd of supporters gathered off to the side of the runway of the Williamson County Regional Airport.
Yet, because he’s done it before, he feels confident he can do it again in both the primary and general gubernatorial elections in 2014.
Rutherford said the time is right for a change in leadership in Springfield, but the Republican party needs the right person campaigning for the state’s chief executive post.
“There is a certain degree of depression about where things are going and frustration about where things are today,” Rutherford told the crowd, recounting how he came to his decision to run.
After the announcement, Rutherford said his biggest challenge if elected would be governing the state, given its current financial situation. He said he’ll have to make decisions that are unpopular, as well as decisions that will make people outright angry.
Asked about shuttered state facilities, like the Tamms Correctional Center in Alexander County, Rutherford said the state is in dire need of some long-term strategic planning with regard to all of its facilities. If elected, he intends to begin that kind of planning for each facility under state control.
On the subject of bringing better-paying jobs to Illinois, Rutherford said it’s a two-fold attack. The first step, he said, is projecting a public image that makes companies want to locate in state. The second, he added, is to make sure all companies have a point person within each state agency that works with the business community to address concerns and questions.
“And these aren’t great ideas by Dan Rutherford. This is what other states have been doing for years now,” Rutherford said.
In his closing remarks to the crowd Monday, Rutherford said he’ll definitely be in and around Southern Illinois over the course of his campaign, but he’s got an entire state to cover and will need a lot of support from the Chicago area if he hopes to win against whoever the Democratic candidate may be next year.
Rutherford also faces a list of Republican primary opponents that include state Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard, as well as venture capitalist Bruce Rauner.