Thursday, July 22, 2004

Updated July 22, 1:10 am

Breaking News, Dillard says no to a U. S. Senate bid.

State GOP Chairman Judy Baar Topinka says [on Wednesday] to Jeff Berkowitz, "No interviews today."

Jack Ryan says, Who is sorry now? Or, does he?

Kirk Dillard, apparently the last real hope to dig Judy Baar Topinka’s GOP state chairmanship out of the ditch, told me earlier this evening, after he had finished his dinner, that he would soon call the State Treasurer, in her capacity as GOP State Chairman. He would tell her thanks, but no thanks. He would decline Judy’s solicitation for Kirk to put his hat in the GOP State Central Committee’s ring and almost surely be selected as their Republican nominee for the U. S. Senate. Kirk, in accord with the style and values he has been projecting, said he was in his kitchen, writing out on a legal pad [from Office Max] the statement he would be giving to the Chicago Tribune for Thursday’s paper. He asked me to embargo the story a bit, as he wanted to call Topinka and various national GOP party figures [not Republican Senate Campaign honchos, e.g., Senator George Allen, who is a Jack Ryan guy] before the story broke.

Dillard told me his decision was based on family considerations, including his two young kids. Moreover, as Robert Redford’s character said in “The Candidate,” after he won, to his surprise, his U. S. Senate race, “Now what do we do.” That is, for someone like Kirk, with his relative lack of wealth, a surprising victory over Barack Obama would mean moving to Virginia, not seeing his kids as much as he would like, dealing with “schools issues.” and either spending lots of time commuting on weekends back to Illinois, or ending up with some of the same problems that Senator Fitzgerald had. Some will be skeptical of that concern, but that is what the 10-year state senator and Lord, Bissell and Brook Loop law firm partner said.

More on the Senate race shortly, but I wanted to see if I could get this out in time to scoop my favorite, if sometimes ill-focused, competitor (and Mayor Daley’s favorite recent target) the Chicago Tribune, which, of course, helped create this mess, the mess they call the Illinois GOP and the Daley- [George] Ryan Combine.

Jeff Berkowitz, host and producer of Public Affairs, can be reached at