Eye On Illinois: Hoping for more from Secretary of State candidates

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Come January, Illinois will have its first new Secretary of State since the last millennium.

Jesse White has led the department since Jan. 11, 1999, a tenure that’s spanned the terms of five governors. He’s the 37th person to hold the office since statehood (we’ve had 43 governors) and his 23-year run dwarfs the second-longest, James Rose, who served from 1897 until his death in 1912.

White has endorsed as his replacement Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, state treasurer from 2007-2011. His opponent is Dan Brady, the Bloomington Republican who joined the Illinois House in 2001.

Both candidates won contested primaries. In the weeks since, Brady hasn’t published a new campaign video. Giannoulias released his first new spot Tuesday morning, a minute-long clip bookended by White introducing his intended successor. The bulk of the ad is an excerpt of Giannoulias’ recent speech at the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association.

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland

Played over video clips of Republicans like state Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, of Georgia, the text is as follows:

“What holds us together is our unified belief in the rule of law, in democracy, in character integrity and in fair and honest elections. We have seen what the political cult on the right has done to our neighbors where lawmakers are passing laws as we speak to make it tougher to vote, harder to make a living and more difficult to seek abortion care. And now more than ever we need a Secretary of State on the front lines to protect our democracy. The stakes in this election could not be higher. Our right to vote, the rights of working families and the reproductive rights of women are all on the ballot this November. My job as the first new Secretary of State in a generation will be to build on [White’s] legacy of public service.”

This focus on the office as “the first line of defense for voting rights,” as Giannoulias said in an older spot, goes back more than a year, though as a former state officer he certainly knows the State Board of Elections administers election laws, not the Secretary of State.

Voters are left to infer these remarks allude to the office’s role with automatic voter registration at the time of applying for a driver license. Those who visit Brady’s website encounter more germane issues such as streamlining services, improving driver education, developing local libraries and, in a strong connection to White’s legacy, increasing organ and tissue donor registration.

Giannoulias’ site does discuss time-saving modernization, but a campaign focused exclusively on making driver services more efficient could truly benefit Illinoisans.

For at least one side, that strategy seems secondary at best.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

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September 1, 2022 at 05:21AM

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