Secretary of state rivals meet virtually, pledge more online services, library help — and spirited race with ‘good dancing shoes’

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City Clerk Anna Valencia, left; State Sen. Michael Hastings, center; Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), right.
City Clerk Anna Valencia, left, in 2019; State Sen. Michael Hastings, center, in 2015; Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), right, in 2019. | Rich Hein; Brian Jackson; Rich Hein/Sun-Times file

Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia, state Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Tinley Park, and Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) laid out their campaign platforms on a Zoom call hosted by Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), who doubles as the Northwest Side ward’s Democratic committeeperson. The only no show among the major Democratic hopefuls was former state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.

Three of the Democrats vying to succeed outgoing Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White appeared together Monday evening for a virtual “conversation” in their first meeting ahead of a primary that’s a little less than a year away.

Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia, state Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Tinley Park, and Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) laid out their campaign platforms on a Zoom call hosted by Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), who doubles as the Northwest Side ward’s Democratic committeeperson.

The only no show among the major Democratic hopefuls was former state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, whose campaign spokeswoman cited a scheduling conflict.

The three candidates who did participate offered biographical information and focused on how they’d build on White’s work, largely through expanding a resident’s ability handle to driver’s license and other tasks online.

For Dowell, that includes making transactions “as easy and safe for consumers and employees as possible” and issuing multi-year license plate stickers.

Hastings told those on the call “what matters most to me, is what matters most to you.” He also gave ideas for economic development, such as lowering fees related to starting a business.

Valencia’s vision for the office includes creating an app for taxpayers to make their appointments and pay fees online. She also pledged to boost the state’s libraries, including looking into expanding broadband access and grants.

The three also answered questions on the offices’ policies, ranging from offering commercial driver’s licensing courses in other languages to the pricing of service fees.

Asked how they’d run a statewide campaign, Hastings said he has the support of colleagues throughout the state. Valencia pointed to connections she made while running U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin’s 2014 re-election campaign that she said could help her build a “diverse coalition” to get elected.

Dowell acknowledged that of the three candidates she was “a little late to the party.

“But, I have good dancing shoes on called sneakers, and I’m looking forward to being a great part of this race and making it very competitive,” Dowell said, adding that the most important thing for her is “creating a message that will resonate with the people across the state of Illinois.”

Dowell jumped into the race in early April, making her the fourth candidate to seek the office that’s seen as one of the most coveted elected offices in Illinois — full of easy publicity, thousands of jobs and the potential to serve as a stepping stone to the governor’s mansion or another, higher office.

Then state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias talks with reporters after a debate with Republican Mark Kirk in the 2010 race for U.S. Senate.
Brian Kersey/Getty Images file
Then state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias talks with reporters after a debate with Republican Mark Kirk in the 2010 race for U.S. Senate.

So far, Giannoulias has raised more campaign funds than the other three. Despite the former state treasurer’s absence on Monday, his campaign spokeswoman said, “We look forward to participating in future 36th ward events.”

“Unfortunately, we were unable to join the forum due to a prior scheduling commitment,” she said, adding that so far this year the former treasurer has conducted “over 100 Alexi Listens events across the State and our message about restoring trust in government, modernizing the office and building on Sec. Jesse White’s legacy has been resonating strongly with voters.”

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May 3, 2021 at 09:59PM

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