UPDATE 5:50 P.M.
Dillard left little doubt about his intentions in an interview with Fox Chicago, saying that "it's safe to say I'm running for governor." Watch:
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CHICAGO (AP) -- A Republican state senator who appeared in campaign commercials for President Barack Obama said Thursday he is "very strongly" considering a run for Illinois governor.
(Scroll down to watch the ad.)
Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale plans to make an announcement next month. He's laying the groundwork for a campaign by visiting with Republican leaders in Mattoon, Mount Vernon and Effingham during the next few days.
The 53-year-old suburban Chicago lawmaker said he has the experience the state needs as it grapples with historic budget problems after two terms of Democratic rule that started with ousted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
A senator for nearly 16 years, Dillard has worked for two Republican governors: He was chief of staff to former Gov. Jim Edgar and legislative director for former Gov. Jim Thompson.
"I have a proven track record - and this state so desperately needs it - of working with all types and factions of people, Democrats and Republicans," Dillard told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Dillard appeared in ads during last year's presidential campaign praising Obama's bipartisanship when they served together in the Illinois Senate.
On pressing state matters, Dillard said it's "unconscionable" for Gov. Pat Quinn to ask for a 50 percent increase in the state income tax rate without "any concerted effort" to cut the budget that he says grew under Blagojevich. Quinn has been meeting with the state's top lawmakers to talk about cost-saving measures, but he insists the state still will need new money from a tax increase to avoid deep service cuts.
The GOP field for governor already includes one of Dillard's colleagues in the state senate, Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington. DuPage County Board chairman Bob Schillerstrom also has announced an exploratory committee.
Watch the Obama campaign ad (via Capitol Fax):
Then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, D-Chicago, Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Westmont, left, and Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, center bottom, share a light moment on the Senate floor at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., July 23, 2004. "It took him awhile to prove that he was a real guy," says Dillard of the clubby atmosphere of Springfield. "For the first couple of years, there was some healthy skepticism ... it was especially true among his fellow African-American legislators." (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)