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GOP gov hopeful Dan Rutherford taps Steve Kim as running mate

Steve Kim (right) with then state Sen. Dan Rutherford (left) fundraiser for Rutherford's successful 2010 run for state treasurer. (From

Steve Kim (right) with then state Sen. Dan Rutherford (left) at a fundraiser for Rutherford's successful 2010 run for state treasurer. (From

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Updated: October 4, 2013 6:19AM

Republican gubernatorial hopeful Dan Rutherford said Monday he is choosing a suburban attorney as his lieutenant governor pick, “a hard worker, known well in Republican leadership circles” — and potentially the first Asian American to hold state office.

The first of the candidates to choose a running mate, Rutherford will run for governor along with attorney Steve Kim from Northbrook, he confirmed in a telephone interview after an initial announcement on Twitter.

Rutherford said Kim as lieutenant governor will have a “substantive” role in his administration, details of which he would announce at a news conference on Thursday morning in Chicago.

“My lieutenant governor isn’t going to wait for funerals,” is all he would explain Monday. He repeatedly declined to drop any hints, though the current state treasurer and lone Republican hopeful to hold statewide office had been hinting about his pick over the last day or two in Twitter:

Korean American. “Would be first Asian-American elected statewide.” “Received almost 1.2 million votes statewide in IL in 2010 as the GOP candidate for Attorney General.” Worked for former Gov. Jim Edgar.

Kim, who’s 42 and a managing partner at the Chicago boutique business law firm RKJ Legal, challenged Attorney General Lisa Madigan unsuccessfully in 2010, winning just 32 percent of the vote.

The attorney who once advised Edgar on international trade and Asian affairs, has been a trustee for Northfield Township, and, according to his firm’s bio, chairs Rutherford’s Performance Audit Commission.

Kim believes his business experience will help restore “the fiscal stability of our state,” adding “It’s about not being the brunt of jokes, it’s about being a state where we can create jobs, retain jobs, bring companies into the state.”

He’s joining Rutherford’s team because, as he put it, “He’s someone who can win, somebody that understands business because he was an executive in a company. He understands Springfield.”

Rutherford said he chose Kim as a capable successor to run the state, citing Kim’s private sector work helping to relocate domestic and international companies to Illinois.

Kim’s Asian heritage — his parents emigrated from South Korea when Kim was 3 — won’t hurt either among the state’s rapidly growing Asian American voters, Rutherford said.

Kim said he’s no “diversifier-in-chief,” for his predominantly white party, “but I do bring in a unique background and experience as an immigrant, something I feel is very unique to immigrants through the state, be they Asian-American, Hispanic-American or Polish-American.”

This is the first primary election in which Illinois voters will pick candidates for governor and lieutenant governor on a single ticket. In the past, candidates for the top two executive jobs ran separately in the primary and teamed up in the general election, which left Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn briefly paired up with colorful pawnbroker Scott Lee Cohen. The change came about after Cohen dropped out of the race, accused of assaulting a girlfriend.

State Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale, another of the four Republicans running for governor, was expected to announce his choice on Tuesday, but late Monday he revealed on Twitter that his running mate is state Rep. Jil Tracy of Quincy.


Twitter @bylaurenfitz

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