Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White isn’t going anywhere, not now and maybe not again in 2022.
Fresh from his re-election to a sixth term in 2018 as Illinois’ secretary of state, Jesse White made the absolutely unsurprising announcement this week that he won’t seek a seventh three years from now.
“This is my last tour of duty,” he told reporters at the Illinois State Fair.
Given that White routinely says that he won’t run for re-election and then subsequently announces that he’s a candidate, his campaign team would be wise not to throw away their “Re-elect White” bumper stickers.
It’s no secret that White is getting a little long in the tooth. At 85, he’s even older than 77-year-old Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
But he’s a physical wonder, and like Madigan, White just keeps rolling along. He’s energized by not only by being secretary of state but also managing his tumbling team.
White’s athletes, who have put on great halftime shows at the State Farm Center, perform widely, both inside and outside the U.S.
Given that White’s term isn’t up for another three years, it might seem premature to some that he’s even talking about his next election. But in a state like Illinois — where politics always trumps policy — the pols scheme 24/7 about their future prospects.
That’s why the other announcement White made was even more important.
He said he has no intention of leaving office early, a move that would allow Gov. J.B. Pritzker to name his replacement.
There are a slew of Democratic politicians who drool in anticipation over the idea of succeeding White in a patronage-rich office that offers a high-level public platform and requires little or no work by the top man. Aspirants include Comptroller Susana Mendoza and Treasurer Michael Frerichs, to name just two.
They know the political value of that post.
For those who don’t, here are two examples.
Jim Edgar was a lowly former member of the Illinois House of Representatives when he was tapped in 1981 to fill the vacancy created by then-Secretary of State Alan Dixon’s election to the U.S. Senate.
Edgar used that post to get out and about, establishing himself as a credible candidate for election as governor in 1990.
Then there’s George Ryan, another former secretary of state who became the state’s governor.
The secretary of state’s office may be purely administrative, to the point that it runs itself. But it’s politically potent, and everyone who aspires to keep moving up the ladder knows it.
So when White says he’s not going anywhere, it’s deflating to those who wish to succeed him, especially by way of a gubernatorial appointment.
To their way of thinking, he’s blocking the upward mobility of ambitious Democrats who would like to use lower-level statewide offices as a vehicle to run for higher-level statewide offices like governor and the U.S. Senate.
It took years for former Attorney General Lisa Madigan to get out of the way. So when she announced that she wouldn’t seek another term as attorney general, a slew of Democrats rejoiced and then filed papers to run for her spot.
White has proved to be even more intransigent, as he has run for re-election and then pledged not to run again, run again for re-election and then pledged not to run again.
This is at least the third time White has promised to call it a day. There’s no more reason to believe him now than there was then.