Illinois Secretary of State

Illinois Secretary of State Race: 4 Democrats and 2 Republicans Look to Succeed Jesse White

(Read this article in Spanish/Lee el artículo en español aquí)

Illinois will soon have a new secretary of state for the first time in 24 years.

First elected in 1998, Secretary of State Jesse White announced in 2019 that he planned to retire at the end of his record sixth term. White is the longest serving secretary of state in Illinois history and has been Illinois’ top vote-getter in four of the last five election cycles in which he was on the ballot, handily winning each race by roughly 30 points or more.

The secretary of state’s office is tasked with tracking millions of drivers and vehicles, registering corporations and lobbyists, as well as overseeing the state archive, library and Capitol, among other responsibilities – generating billions in revenue and employing thousands of state workers.

Four Democrats and two Republicans have lined up to try and succeed White, most touting plans to modernize the technology of the office and strengthen ethical oversight.  

The Democrats are, in order of ballot appearance:

Alexi Giannoulias: Giannoulias previously served one term as Illinois Treasurer from 2006 to 2011. He unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in 2010, losing narrowly to Sen. Mark Kirk in the race for the seat previously held by Barack Obama, an early political ally he calls his mentor and has prominently featured in his ads. Prior to launching his political career, Giannoulias worked for his family’s Broadway Bank, which drew scrutiny for some of its questionable, high-risk deals and was seized by federal officials in the midst of his Senate campaign. After leaving office, Giannoulias worked in the financial sector and served as chair of the Illinois Community College Board, then later on the Chicago Public Library’s Board of Directors. This time around, Giannoulias has been endorsed by the Cook County Democratic Party and is backed by several major labor unions, which have helped in part to lift him to a roughly three-to-one fundraising advantage over his nearest opponent in the past year-and-a-half.

Ald. David Moore: Moore has served as Chicago’s 17th Ward alderman, representing parts of the city’s South Side since 2015. He worked in accounting prior to moving to the public sector, working at multiple government agencies including the Chicago Department of Aviation and Chicago Housing Authority. He’s at a significant disadvantage financially, having raised less than $100,000 for the race.

Clerk Anna Valencia: Valencia is the current City Clerk of Chicago, taking office in 2017 after then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed her to fill the vacancy created when Susana Mendoza was elected Illinois Comptroller. Prior to that, Valencia was director of the Emanuel’s Office of Legislative Counsel and Government Affairs and had previously worked in politics, for Rep. Mike Quigley and managing Sen. Dick Durbin’s 2014 race. Valencia has won some high-profile endorsements, from White himself, to Durbin and Sen. Tammy Duckworth as well as Gov. J.B. Pritzker. But she’s faced questions and criticism over business dealings with her husband, lobbyist Reyahd Kazmi, including emails and communications that appeared to advance his interests from her official government account. She also did not disclose for two years on her city ethics statements that her husband lobbied for clout-heavy Monterrey Security, which she later amended and called “an honest mistake.” She has since vowed put a firewall between their professional lives, but critics have raised ethical concerns, noting that the secretary of state oversees the registration of all lobbyists in Illinois.

Sidney Moore: Moore, of Homewood, has never previously held elected office and according to his website, founded and runs a not-for-profit organization.

The Republican candidates are:

Rep. Dan Brady: Brady, of Bloomington, is a licensed funeral director and embalmer who has represented the 105th District in central Illinois since 2001. He was appointed to Republican leadership in the chamber in 2003, rising to Deputy Minority Leader in 2017. Prior to his time in the legislature, he was elected McLean County Coroner in 1992.

John Milhiser: Milhiser, of Springfield, served as the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois from 2018 to 2021 and prior to that, was a prosecutor in the Sangamon County State’s Attorney’s Office. He is part of the statewide Republican slate that has the financial backing of GOP megadonor Ken Griffin and includes gubernatorial candidate Richard Irvin. Subsequently, he’s got a nearly two-to-one cash advantage over Brady.

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