Clobbered in race for Illinois secretary of state, Valencia will seek reelection as city clerk

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Despite being clobbered in the race for Illinois secretary of state, Anna Valencia said Wednesday she plans to get up off the mat and seek re-election as Chicago’s city clerk.

After taking July off to catch up on sleep, vacation with her husband and reconnect with her 2-year-old daughter, Valencia chose to shake off the ethics scandal centered around her husband’s lobbying activities.

“I want to be a role model for young girls and women. They may not win the first time. It may not go the way they’re planning. But you don’t back down. You get back up,” said Valencia, 37.

“Even after a very public defeat and negative and false statements coming my way, I’m standing up with grace, with my integrity. I’m marching forward. And I’m gonna continue to serve. And that is a lesson that I hope others learn and see in me as I step back up to the plate.”

With blood in the water from her landslide loss to former state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Valencia said she expects a challenge in what will be her second election for city clerk.

“There’s a lot of ambitious people. They think maybe there’s an opportunity to take me on,” she said.

But Valencia said she is “totally ready if I’m challenged” and believes she will win handily.

Appointed by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel to fill the void created when then-clerk Susana Mendoza was elected state comptroller, Valencia was once seen as a rising star in Chicago and Illinois politics with seemingly limitless possibilities, including mayor or governor.

Those high hopes came crashing down in her race for secretary of state.

Even with endorsements from Gov. J.B. Pritzker and retiring Secretary of State Jesse White, Valencia got just 34.4% of the vote to 52.7% for Giannoulias. Ald. David Moore (17th) was far behind, with 8.9%.

Outgoing Secretary of State Jesse White (right) endorsed Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia to succeed him, but she lost the Democratic nomination to Alexi Giannoulias. Here, Valencia and White are joined by Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) after they voted early in the June primary at Union Park Fieldhouse on the Near West Side.

Outgoing Secretary of State Jesse White (right) endorsed Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia to succeed him, but she lost the race for the Democratic nomination to Alexi Giannoulias. Here, Valencia and White are joined by Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) after they voted early in the June primary at Union Park Fieldhouse on the Near West Side.

What was so surprising about the Democratic primary to fill White’s seat was not that ethics was a central theme but that it was about Valencia’s ethics.

The city clerk and her lobbyist-husband Reyahd Kazmi played so fast and loose in mixing his lobbying business with her official emails that people forgot about the scandal at Broadway Bank, the failed Chicago bank owned by the Giannoulias family that doled out loans to people with alleged ties to organized crime while Alexi Giannoulias was a senior loan officer.

Kazmi was a consultant for clout-heavy Monterrey Security. The leaked emails appeared to tie him to IGNITE, a technology company behind the CityKey ID program.

“You have growth in whatever you do. And I certainly went through a lot of growth. But I’m more about talking about what I’ve done and what I plan to do than getting down into negative, nasty political tactics,” she said.

On Wednesday, Valenica once again blamed opposition research bankrolled by the Giannoulias campaign for uncovering hundreds of emails and text messages from her city accounts about her husband’s lobbying business.

She sees no need to strengthen the firewall between her official duties and her husband’s private lobbying business because she’s “always had a firewall” and abided by “those clear boundaries.”

“There were a lot of negative and false attacks that came my way. There were a lot of misinterpretations and false facts. … I don’t believe those false attacks define me in any way. The dust has settled. And we’re moving forward,” she said.

“There were things that were misinterpreted and used to insinuate things about me that were not true. And since then, my opponent and I have sat down, talked through those things that happen in primary battles. And we’ve moved forward.”

Democrats running for Illinois secretary of state, left to right, former Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Ald. David Moore (17th) and Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia participate in a debate at the Union League Club in late May.

Democrats running for Illinois secretary of state, left to right, former Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Ald. David Moore (17th) and Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia participate in a debate at the Union League Club in late May.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

As city clerk, Valencia has championed the CityKey ID card that was controversial at first but has been wildly successful in giving undocumented immigrants, ex-offenders, homeless Chicagoans and others from vulnerable populations the identification they need to get a job.

She also has worked with Mayor Lori Lightfoot to seek greater equity in Chicago’s ticketing, towing and booting policies, which have targeted minorities and forced thousands into bankruptcy.

Recently, she finally dragged the Chicago City Council into the 21st century with the switch to electronic voting.

If she’s re-elected, Valencia hopes to deliver the rest of her city council modernization agenda, which includes electronic voting at committee meetings and going totally paperless.

She called the mass exodus from the council — with 15 members elected in 2019 having already left or announced they will be departing — a “huge opportunity for us.”

“People are looking for the next generation of leaders, young blood, to come in that understand the digital world. Understand we need to make our government more accessible to people,” Valencia said.

“With all of these new aldermen, they will embrace the changes.”

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September 15, 2022 at 07:51AM

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