State Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Hinsdale Republican, says he has enough support to be elected chairman of the Regional Transportation Authority at its meeting Wednesday.
Dillard, who was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination for governor, told the Tribune he believes he has the backing of a supermajority of RTA board members, the bipartisan support of suburban county political leaders and especially Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“I like a challenge and I think (being RTA chairman) is my way to give back to a state that I love,” Dillard said, when asked why he sought the post. “I think having a world-class transit system is critical to Chicago and all of Illinois.”
Dillard would replace John Gates Jr., chairman of the agency that oversees the CTA, Metra and Pace for the past four years.”
Chairmanship of the RTA board requires a combination of geographic and political support, which Dillard said he has garnered. The post pays $25,000 a year.
Election requires votes from 11 of the 15 board members. The board is comprised of 10 appointees by county leaders from the six-county region and five from the mayor of Chicago.
Dillard said his background as a legislator as well as his experience as chief of staff for former Gov. Jim Edgar gives him the ability to bridge Democratic and Republican party lines.
“I’m a guy who has worked well with the other side of the aisle,” Dillard said.
Dillard lost to Bruce Rauner in the Republican gubernatorial primary. There have been media reports that Rauner preferred someone else for the RTA post and was working against Dillard’s effort. Rauner’s campaign office did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Dillard said he was raised on Chicago’s North Side and appreciates the value of the CTA, recollecting that he used to escort his grandmother on her bus trips to the doctor.
He’s also a regular Metra rider, commuting from Hinsdale to his Downtown law office. He said he sympathizes with delays and service problems.
“When Metra’s not running and the riders are stuck at Union Station, their chairman of the board is going to be stuck there too,” Dillard said.
A recent RTA analysis determined that the CTA, Metra and Pace together will need $33.4 billion over the next 10 years to keep the current transit system in good condition and operating relatively well.
Dillard said he believes he’s “the right person” to convince Springfield legislators as well as the Illinois Congressional delegation to come up with more money for the region’s mass transit system.
Twitter @richwronskiCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun