White changes mind, will seek 6th term as secretary of state

Jesse White from Cyber Drive website

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced Thursday that he’ll seek a sixth term, reversing earlier declarations that he would step down after two decades in an office that was tainted by corruption prior to his arrival.

“I’m your man,” the 83-year-old Democrat told a crowd of 1,800 attending a brunch in Springfield hosted by the Democratic County Chairman’s Association.

He said that while the “office is a far better place now than it was” when he took office, there’s more work for him to do in improving road conditions, customer service and teen driving programs.

White, widely known for the Jesse White Tumblers, a program he started in 1959 to provide an alternative to gangs and drugs for inner-city young people, was first elected secretary of state in 1998. He replaced Republican George Ryan, who was elected governor but later went to federal prison for political corruption mostly tied to his two terms as secretary of state.

The Illinois Republican Party released a statement mocking White for saying in 2009 that his fourth term would be his last and again, as late as last year, saying he’d call it quits. No Republican has announced a candidacy for the office.

White has proven a prodigious vote getter. The former state representative and Cook County Recorder of Deeds has won five races for secretary of state by an average plurality of 1.1 million votes, according to an Associated Press compilation and analysis of State Board of Election figures. His winning percentages of 70 percent in 2010 and 69 percent in 2002 are the fourth- and fifth-largest of any statewide race since 1900, according to the analysis.

The brunch has traditionally preceded an old-school campaign rally at the state fair, which Democrats skipped this year. But nine candidates for governor took to the rostrum, with many unloading as much firepower on Republican President Donald Trump as on the man they hope to replace, GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Several candidates castigated Trump for softening his statements on the Charlottesville, Virginia, incident Saturday in which a man allegedly drove his car into a crowd protesting a white supremacists’ rally, killing one and injuring nine. Trump initially denounced white supremacists for their views; a day later, he said there was blame on both sides for the violence that occurred.

“We must always take sides,” said Chicago businessman J.B. Pritzker, quoting Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. “As we begin the fight, the resistance, we Democrats must remember we are all on one side, the same side, the American side.”

Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar linked the divisiveness created by the Virginia incident to fallout from Rauner’s veto of school-funding legislation, known as Senate Bill 1 , that he says unfairly favors Chicago over other parts of the state.

“Charlottesville is the end of the line of a series of actions and policies that led us there,” Pawar said. “You know what’s at the beginning of the line? An amendatory veto of Senate Bill 1, which pits white communities against poor black and brown communities.”

Democrats who control the General Assembly are attempting to override the veto. A spokeswoman for Rauner’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.