Gidwitz jumps into IL Governor's race
DIXON, Ill -- After decades as a behind-the-scenes player in Republican politics, wealthy Chicago businessman Ron Gidwitz took to a makeshift stage outside the old Lee County Courthouse on Tuesday to formally declare his candidacy for the GOP nomination for governor.
Gidwitz, who formerly led the family cosmetics business, Helene Curtis Industries, until it was sold in 1996, is the second Republican to enter the race, after Aurora businessman James Oberweis. At least six other Republicans have expressed interest in the nomination.
Gidwitz, 60, also is the first social moderate to jump into the contest. He supports abortion rights, though he backs parental consent before a minor can undergo the procedure. And while he opposes gay marriage, Gidwitz supports the concept of civil unions.
Those positions, he said, represented one reason why he chose Dixon, the boyhood home of President Ronald Reagan, to kick off his campaign.
"It is a message that we are going to bring back Ronald Reagan's values, Ronald Reagan's inclusiveness," he said.
A Republican ward committeeman in the late 1980s, Gidwitz has been a longtime member of the state GOP Finance Committee and has given more than $750,000 to state and federal Republican candidates and campaigns in the last 11 years.
But Gidwitz, a noted philanthropist, also has had good relations with Democrats, including Chicago Mayors Richard M. Daley and Harold Washington and former U.S. House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski.
A former chairman of the State Board of Education and the former head of the City Colleges of Chicago, Gidwitz has long been a forceful education advocate.