PONTIAC, Ill. | Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford said the last few weeks of his bid for Illinois governor were the "most challenging of my entire life," but declined to offer a direct concession to the other three GOP candidates in a short speech delivered minutes after the polls closed for Tuesday's primary.
He didn't mention his opponents or the vote, but vowed to pursue a different role with future political projects, such as championing reform of the process of redrawing election boundaries in Illinois, which has been dominated by Democrats.
"There is no question, I'm going to be back," he said.
The Chenoa Republican described a "horrible" few weeks after a male former employee filed a federal lawsuit accusing Rutherford of sexual harassment and forcing him to do campaign work on state time. Rutherford has denied the allegations and questioned the lawsuit's timing during the competitive primary.
He said Tuesday that his name will be cleared.
Rutherford, a former longtime legislator, was at one time considered a strong candidate, but his campaign took a hit after the allegations were made public. His tenure also came under question after investigations by The Associated Press, Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune showed he'd shared rooms with another subordinate male employee while on state and campaign business. Rutherford had said that it only happened twice on state time to save money, but public records showed it was more often.
In recent weeks, his campaign took a dramatically different tone, with the usually camera-seeking Rutherford avoiding reporters. An avid user of social media, his Twitter account slowed down. He even barred the media from his election party, opting to make a short statement.
"It's been horrible ... It's been horrible for my family," he said. "It's been horrible for my staff. It's been horrible for family of my staff. And it's been horrible for my friends. I'm looking forward to vindicating myself."
The other three candidates seeking the Republican nomination are businessman Bruce Rauner, who has been leading in polls and fundraising, and state Sens. Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady. Gov. Pat Quinn, is seeking re-election.