Illinois state Sen. Kirk Dillard lost the Republican primary for governor in 2010 by just 193 votes. File photoCLEARWATER, FL -- Former Gov. Jim Edgar once lent his name to the gubernatorial ambitions of state Sen. Kirk Dillard.
Based on Edgar's comments Monday, it doesn't seem like a stretch to imagine him helping his one-time chief of staff try again for the Executive Mansion if he runs in 2014.
"If he's interested in being governor, I wouldn't sit, you know, this one out," the former governor told reporters following a breakfast of Illinois Republican delegates in Clearwater.
Dillard (R-Hinsdale) has sent plenty of signals he's preparing to avenge his 193-vote loss from two years ago to state Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), a social conservative who narrowly lost the general election in 2010 to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.
"You come that close, you'd like to get another shot," Edgar said of Dillard's slim primary loss. "I think there's some people who maybe have some buyer's remorse off that primary."
Edgar said if Republicans stand a chance of winning the governorship, they have to get behind a socially moderate candidate, not one that would "veer too far to the right."
Dillard wouldn't answer the question Monday whether he's in or out, saying the presidential election is his first priority. But he predicted Edgar would be with him again should a 2014 gubernatorial bid be in the cards.
"I'm confident that Gov. Edgar-- he's been a friend, a mentor, I was his chief of staff -- he'll be helpful to me if I decide to run for governor," Dillard told reporters.
The only other potential 2014 GOP gubernatorial candidate to show up at Monday morning's Republican convention kickoff was state Treasurer Dan Rutherford.
Rutherford, chairman of Mitt Romney's Illinois campaign and head of the state's Republican delegation, paid his respects to the last Illinois governor not to go to prison and certainly one of the state GOP's most popular and enduring names.
But the treasurer made no bones in saying Edgar's endorsement is not strong enough to decide a primary for any GOP hopeful in 2014.
"I've got a lot of respect for Gov. Edgar, by all means. And having his endorsement is always nice to have. But we've seen other campaigns, other times, when party leadership has endorsed, and those people don't always win," Rutherford told the Chicago Sun-Times.