Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Issues take a back seat in this race

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A lot of elections are pretty much cut and dry, easy to sort out, and good and bad candidates are distinguishable. But that’s not the case in the race for Illinois Secretary of State.

There’s Alexi Giannoulias, a friendly guy who served one term as Illinois treasurer from 2007-11. I know him. Nice guy, but the kind of politician who only talks to you when he needs something.

Giannoulias has all the big bucks, more than $4.4 million in his campaign war chest, raising more than $500,000 just in the first quarter.

Then there is a guy like David Moore, who grew up in the rough and tumble Robert Taylor Homes. He says he was inspired to get involved in politics after hearing one of Mayor Harold Washington’s many moving speeches. Moore is a real pick-himself-up-from-the-bootstraps story who has served as alderman of the 17th Ward since 2015. Moore has less than $39,000 available for his campaign.

Then there is Anna Valencia, who boasts the endorsement of retiring Secretary of State Jesse White. Valencia comes from the circle of clout, having worked with the racist former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, although later she improved and worked as campaign manager in 2014 for U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, a very popular centrist with good programs.

Valencia was appointed in 2016 to the office of city clerk by outgoing Clerk Susana Mendoza, who is now the Illinois Comptroller. Valencia was elected city clerk in 2019.

Politics is so incestuous, I guess. Valencia has $1.1 million in her campaign war chest and probably will raise more with White’s backing.

If you just go by the money, Giannoulias has this wrapped up. If you go by clout, Valencia has White’s endorsement, who held the office of secretary of state since 1998. Moore has the inspiring story.

On top of all that is the issue of race, which in Illinois has always been a big factor in any election. Giannoulias is white, Moore is black, Valencia is Hispanic.

In Illinois politics, they call that a “Rainbow Choice”–selecting from three of the top racial constituencies, and that means each will have to try and convince voters in the other race categories to vote for them rather than for their affinity.

That’s why Giannoulias, the Daddy Warbucks of the election, is touting his friendship with former President Barack Obama, and playing basketball with young kids. Forget about the moral judgments here, Giannoulias is clearly pandering to African American voters.

Valencia has White’s endorsement, which is a big deal since White has been one of Illinois’ most successful African American office holders.

Moore just has some ideas, but no money to get them out.

But what are all the issues in this race? No one knows.

Giannoulias has run two big campaign commercials so far with kids playing basketball. But here we are eight weeks from the election, and Daddy Warbucks hasn’t once said in any of those commercials what he plans to do about all the problems that have plagued the secretary of state’s offices.

Three Republicans are running, led by State Rep. Dan Brady, another very decent guy, who has represented the 105th District since 2013. Two other Republicans are in the race, too, in John Milhiser and Michelle Turney.

None of the candidates have said anything about how they will address the secretary of state’s problems. Skyrocketing costs have plagued the office for years, like long delays when you go to a facility to get a driver’s license or anything.

I remember standing in line for hours while one of White’s employees talked on the phone with a friend while working at the public window. I wrote about that, and White has never forgiven me. Boo hoo! Many officials can’t take criticism. They pretend to be accountable.

The secretary of state’s office is so important, yet costly to taxpayers. What will the new secretary do to hold down costs or make its 4,000 employees in 21 departments accountable? Those are the issues I’d like to know.

In a race where race is the most important factor, however, no one needs to speak to the real issues. They can pander to their racial constituencies or target the ones they need the most.

That’s too bad. Because I have a feeling that when this race is over, it’s going to cost the public a fortune to register our vehicles, get new license plates, driver’s licenses and keep state records, laws and archives.

Voters are getting so little for an office that is so big.

Check out Ray Hanania’s columns and political podcasts at hanania.com.

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