Bill Brady (right) attacks Kirk Dillard (left) for cooperating with Barack Obama. Caught in the middle is Dan Rutherford. | Jon Cunningham/For Sun-Times Media
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Updated: April 8, 2014 6:45AM
State Sens. Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady traded jabs Thursday night at a GOP primary debate that dredged up touchy feelings about dogs and cats and old TV commercials.
Brady went after Dillard for his appearance in a TV ad run by President Barack Obama’s campaign in which he stated: “Republican legislators respect Barack Obama.”
Dillard downplayed the ad. “I said 15 nice words about Barack Obama,” he said. “It was an Internet thing that ended up in an ad and I called him and I said, ‘You know you’ve got to pull that because I’m for John McCain.”
Dillard, of Hinsdale, went further to distance himself from Obama: “I disagree with Barack Obama on virtually everything that there is. I was the second leading vote-getter for John McCain in the state of Illinois.”
But Brady came back to the issue several times.
“To defend in any way, shape or form your support for him to attain the highest office in the land in this country is pathetic,” said Brady, of Bloomingdale. “Reliable Republicans don’t do things like that.”
Dillard countered by twice bringing up Brady’s brief support for a bill that would have allowed for the mass euthanasia of dogs and cats. Brady introduced the bill shortly after narrowly winning the Republican nomination for governor over Dillard in 2010. He later lost to Pat Quinn, who used the topic to hammer Brady.
“You had your chance Bill, you muffed it and you blew it,” Dillard said of Brady’s opportunity to beat Quinn.
The sparring prompted Illiois Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who stood between Brady and Dillard, to comment: “Whoever selected the stage setup to put me in the middle, it was probably a very good choice.”
Bruce Rauner, the GOP front-runner in the race, elected not to participate in Thursday’s debate, which was broadcast on radio.
Both Dillard and Brady are trying to solidify their status as a viable alternative to Rauner, a multimillionaire Winnetka venture capitalist who has been pouring money into his own campaign.
Dillard received a booster shot in the form of a $700,000 donation from a conservative PAC run by U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock’s former chief of staff. The money will fund much-needed TV commercials.
When asked if they would feel more safe at the Benedictine University gymnasium in Lisle, where the debate was held, if audience members were carrying guns, all three candidates said yes.
“I would feel safer with law-abiding citizens who are trained, as opposed to some nut who may come in here,” Brady said.
And, mimicking previous debates, all three took shots at Rauner.
“Rauner has so demonized the working people of this state, there’s no way he can win,” Dillard said.