WESTMONT – Republican state Sen. Kirk Dillard, who made two attempts at Illinois governor, officially resigned from the Legislature after more than two decades in office to become chairman of the Chicago area’s Regional Transportation Authority, Senate Republican officials announced Monday.
The Hinsdale lawmaker, who first took office in 1993, also served as chief of staff to former Gov. Jim Edgar, a fact he often touted during his most recent gubernatorial bid. Despite heavy support from unions, Dillard lost the four-way GOP primary in March to businessman Bruce Rauner. He also lost a close 2010 gubernatorial GOP primary to state Sen. Bill Brady.
Dillard, 59, was an intern for Senate Republicans as soon as he graduated from Western Illinois University in 1977. He went to law school, later going on to work as a legislative director for former Gov. Jim Thompson. He was appointed to the Illinois Senate to fill a vacancy in 1993 and won election the following year.
“I was called to public service at a young age,” he said in a statement from Senate Republicans. “I respected the process and worked hard to honor the wishes of those who elected me and sent me to the General Assembly to work humbly on their behalf.”
He said his biggest accomplishments include working on a bill creating the Amber Alert system in Illinois.
In his most recent run for Illinois governor, Dillard also emphasized his bipartisan work. He worked on campaign reform in 1998 with then-state Sen. Barack Obama and later appeared in a 2008 campaign ad for Obama’s presidential run. The move earned him some criticism during the GOP primary.
“I am proud to have worked in a bipartisan fashion, without ever giving up my Republican principles of less government, lower taxes and individual liberties,” Dillard said in a statement.
Dillard was named to the RTA post in June and submitted his resignation in July. Republican officials said they will discuss who will replace him until the winner of the Nov. 4 election takes office.
The RTA provides financial oversight for the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra commuter rail and Pace bus service. Dillard’s appointment comes as the agency has come under scrutiny with at least one task force recommending its elimination.
Dillard has said his regular commutes to his Chicago law office on Metra give him a unique perspective in understanding the region’s transportation issues.