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Dillard nabs Illinois Federation of Teachers endorsement

SPRINGFIELD — Republican gubernatorial candidate Kirk Dillard scored a near-clean sweep among teachers, picking up the endorsement Sunday of the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

Backing from the 100,000-member IFT follows backing for Dillard from the Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Retired Teachers Association.

“Sen. Dillard has been a tireless advocate for public schools and our communities and a strong voice for teachers and retirees regarding the unconstitutionality of recent pension theft legislation,” IFT President Dan Montgomery said in a prepared statement announcing the endorsement.

“We have already told our members for whom not to vote, and now we’re making it more clear: we encourage anyone who plans to pull a Republican ballot on March 18th to vote for Kirk Dillard,” he said.

Dillard, who did not vote for a pension-cut package that passed the General Assembly and was enacted by Gov. Pat Quinn in December, is running in the four-way GOP primary for governor.

The IFT endorsement marks only the second time the group has come out in favor of a Republican candidate for governor.

“While we have a long history of bipartisanship, this is a significant moment for the IFT. Other than our support for Jim Thompson, this is only the second time in our history when we have endorsed a Republican candidate for governor,” Montgomery said. “This election is simply too important to sit on the sidelines, and we are getting in the game for the future of Illinois.”

Dillard has been running either second or third in polling in the GOP primary, trailing private equity investor Bruce Rauner, who has spent millions of his own dollars to fund a massive, months-long television ad campaign.

The Chicago Teachers Union, an affiliate of the IFT, has not weighed in on the Republican gubernatorial primary.