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Jim Dey is a staff writer for The News-Gazette. His email is jdey@news-gazette.com.

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State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, dreams of becoming Illinois’ next secretary of state, succeeding retiring Democrat Jesse White in that post.

But the odds against him — he’s a long-shot at best — became even longer this week when his hopes of getting a free pass in the June 28 Republican primary went up in smoke.

Multiple candidates in both parties, like others before them, perceive White’s office to to be a political springboard for higher posts.

Former Springfield U.S. Attorney John Milhiser announced this week that he, too, is seeking the GOP nomination for secretary of state. Although it was denied, word is that Milhiser has the backing — at least indirectly — of Chicago billionaire Ken Griffin.

It been reported that Griffin’s political team, which desperately wants to defeat Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s re-election bid in November, is also taking the long view by putting Milhiser in position for a future bid for even higher office.

At any rate, it’s now a two-man race in the GOP primary, unless Brady decides he’d rather switch office bids than fight Milhiser.

So far, he shows no sign of doing that. On the heels of Milhiser’s announcement, Brady rolled out a series of endorsements that included fellow legislators and members of Congress.

“Their support will allow us to build an effective campaign infrastructure from Cairo to Waukegan as I prepare to share my message with voters in the months ahead,” Brady said.

Local pols endorsing Brady include GOP state Reps. Mike Marron of Fithian, Brad Halbrook of Shelbyville, Chris Miller of Oakland and Tom Bennett of Gibson City; GOP state Sens. Chapin Rose of Mahomet and Jason Barickman of Bloomington; and U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville.

Winning in November will be difficult for both Brady or Milhiser, neither of whom is well known. Democrats dominate Illinois, to the point that just carrying Cook County by a significant majority is sufficient to win statewide.

Democrats emerging

It’s unclear who the Republican nominee will face in November because Democratic candidates have come out of the woodwork in their bids to succeed the long-tenured White.

Democratic wannabes have long been frustrated by party incumbents who keep running for re-election. There was a huge intra-party fight over who would follow longtime Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and it’s the same now that the 87-year-old White is retiring.

Two leading candidates for the Democratic nomination for White’s job are former state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia.

Giannoulias, who lost a U.S. Senate bid in 2010, has a huge campaign treasury and a ton of endorsements. Valencia has backing from party stalwarts including U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth.

The irony is that most of the candidates running don’t really want to be secretary of state. Like former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar and late Democratic U.S. Sen. Alan Dixon, they see the high-profile office as a vehicle to run for governor or U.S. senator.

As for Milhiser, he is a former Sangamon County State’s Attorney who was U.S. Attorney until being fired by President Joe Biden as part of the switch from a Republican to a Democratic administration.

But he can cite bipartisan backing, because his appointment as U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois was supported by Democrats Duckworth and Durbin.

The Milhiser announcement has sparked discussion and some resentment about the role of Griffin, a billionaire hedge-fund operator, in GOP politics. There have been news stories that he and his political advisers are trying to put together a statewide GOP ticket.

A couple weeks ago, state Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, was expressing hope that Griffin would back his gubernatorial campaign. Now convinced that he won’t, Bailey took a shot at Griffin’s unconfirmed role in GOP politics by warning people about what he thinks is up.

“Right now, even as we speak, factions of the Republican Party are trying to hand-pick the ‘yes people’ that they want to put into office,” Bailey wrote on his Facebook page. “There’s a lot of good people out there that have decided to run and they’re being discouraged, borderline bribed, whatever you want to call it, not to run. And this has got to be exposed and talked about as well, because these days of Illinois governance where we’ve came from, where we’ve been, what we’ve been doing and why we are here has got to end.

Prickly pair

The Chicago Tribune has been having a field day with text messages sent by Mayor Lori Lightfoot sends.

The messages, obtained under the state’s Freedom of Information Act, show that Lightfoot is more than willing to light into those who draw her ire.

Just one example concerned Lightfoot’s anger over a story she blamed on a fellow Democrat, Pritzker. She texted the governor a Chicago Sun-Times opinion piece headlined, “Mayor’s gaffes won’t help Chicago get a lift from Pritzker and Springfield.”

“Super helpful,” she wrote.

Pritzker responded:

“Mayor. I didn’t write this nor did I foster it. I get bad press too. Call when you would like.”

Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached at jdey@news-gazette.com or 217-393-8251.

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