The Illinois gubernatorial race won’t be McLean County’s only statewide Republican primary to watch next month.
There are two GOP candidates vying to become the next secretary of state, including one who had a long legislative career representing Bloomington-Normal in the state legislature.
Jesse White served as Illinois secretary of state for nearly a quarter century and in state government for 40 years. When the 88-year-old Democrat announced he would not seek a seventh term, candidates from both sides of the aisle lined up to replace him, including Dan Brady. The Bloomington Republican has also served long in state government. He is in his 11th term in the Illinois House and serves as the Republican Party leader. Brady has an opponent in the GOP primary, John Milhiser. Milhiser served as the U.S. Attorney for Central Illinois under President Trump. Milhiser now teaches at an adult education center in Springfield.
Brady said he already had a good understanding of how the Secretary of State’s office worked, based on the legislation he worked on. This includes the Offices Organ and Tissue Donor Registry. But Brady said chauffeur services are what the secretary of state’s office is best known for, and in many places that reputation isn’t good.
“I think a lot of your listeners, my constituents, and the people I talk to across the state of Illinois, have run into issues with the office of the secretary of state in terms of the basics of the renewals, the driver’s license issues, interactions with the offices themselves,” Brady said. “How can we rationalize this?”
Brady said chauffeur services need to move more online. He says the Secretary of State’s workforce of around 4,000 should be cross-trained to better assist clients. Brady calls himself a “hands-on change agent” who will make the experience more efficient for people who use the office.
Brady said he also hears voters’ concerns about election integrity. It’s an issue that Republicans are trying to capture in the Secretary of State races across the country. Brady said that in Illinois, the secretary of state has little power over elections except for automobile voter registration.
Brady said he would like to offload that to local election authorities. “I don’t know if the documentation, the registration process is as complete as it should be. I would love to see the focus on organ and tissue donation and try to improve our numbers there,” Brady said.
The original idea of the Automotive Voter was to make it easier to register to vote and offering this service at the offices of the Secretary of State provides wider access to registration as most adults use these facilities. Republicans in many states have tried to limit auto voters. Brady said he might be open to partnering with local election officials.
Brady said he also wants to reduce distracted driving through more hands-on education. Brady said he would deploy the Secretary of State’s resources to work with companies in the tire and auto industry to graphically show teens the physics of driving. He said it should improve students’ concentration behind the wheel.
Brady’s chief GOP opponent, John Milhiser, has made his experience as a prosecutor a focus of his campaign. Milhiser says he prosecuted drunk drivers as a prosecutor and has zero tolerance for bribery. Milhiser said he would continue to advocate for victims if elected secretary of state.
Milhiser did not respond to multiple interview requests. His campaign is active on social media. Milhiser said the secretary of state’s office is primarily a customer service office and that he would use technology to help the office better serve the public.
Milhiser also has the unofficial endorsement of the Republican Party. He is on the GOP slate that begins with Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, the party’s preferred candidate for governor.
Brady bristles at the attempted king of the group.
“I think voters don’t like it when someone with the most money picks who they want, or those around them pick who they want and try to tell the rest of the people of Illinois, at least to the Republicans, that this is the right thing to do,” Brady said.
Milhiser has also been active in fundraising. In the first quarter, campaign documents show Milhiser outscored Brady by more than three to one. But Milhiser started from scratch. Brady had a lot more cash on hand to start and outspent Milhiser in the quarter. Milhiser spent next to nothing.
Campaign documents show Milhiser had slightly more cash at the end of the first quarter than Brady, a difference of about $30,000.
Brady said he was disappointed not to get help from GOP mega-donor Ken Griffin, but he said he would continue to focus on what he is known for, the retail campaign. . “
“I’m under-resourced, but I’m definitely not going to be overwhelmed,” Brady said.
Democrats in the race
The field for Democrats in the race for secretary of state is more crowded. The four candidates are former Illinois Treasurer and US Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias, Chicago Alderman David Moore, businessman Sidney Moore and Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia.
Giannoulias had nearly $4.5 million in his campaign war chest in early April. That’s more than any other candidate.
Anna Valencia is hoping for a golden ticket that could fill a fundraising shortfall. Outgoing secretary Jesse White has endorsed Valencia.
The primary election is June 28. Early voting is underway. General elections will be held on November 8.