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Rep. Brady pledges improved service at Secretary of State offices in GOP primary bid

Dan Brady and John Milhiser
file photos
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Illinois Secretary of State candidates Dan Brady, left, and John Milhiser are seeking the Republican party nod in the June 28 primary.

The governor's race in Illinois won't be the only statewide primary Republicans in McLean County will watch next month.

There are two GOP contestants running to become the next Secretary of State, including one who has had a long legislative career representing Bloomington-Normal in the state legislature.

Jesse White has been the 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 on both sides of the aisle lined up to replace him, including Dan Brady. The Bloomington Republican has served in state government a long time as well. He's in his 11th term in the Illinois House and he serves in Republican party leadership. Brady has an opponent in the GOP primary, John Milhiser. Milhiser served as U.S. attorney for Central Illinois under President Trump. Milhiser now teaches at an adult education center in Springfield.

Brady said he already has a good grasp of how Secretary of State services function, based on legislation he's worked on. That includes the offices' organ and tissue donor registry. But Brady said driver services are what the Secretary of State's office is most known for and in many places that reputation is not good.

“I think many of your listeners, my constituents and the people I talk to across the state of Illinois, have experienced problems with the Secretary of State’s office when it comes to the basics of renewals, the driver’s license issues, the interactions with the offices themselves,” Brady said. “How do we streamline that?”

Brady said driver services need to move more online. He says the Secretary of State workforce of about 4,000 should be cross-trained to better help customers. Brady calls himself a “hands-on agent for change” that will make the experience more efficient for people who use the office.

Election management

Brady said he also hears concerns from voters about election integrity. That's an issue Republicans are trying to seize on in Secretary of State races across the country. Brady said in Illinois, the Secretary of State has little power over elections, except for motor voter registration.

Brady said he would like to offload that to local election authorities. “I don’t know that the documentation, the registration process is as thorough as it should be. I would like to see the emphasis shifted to organ and tissue donation and try to improve our numbers there,” Brady said.

The original idea of motor voter was to make it easier to register to vote and offering that service at Secretary of State offices provides broader access to registration because most adults use those facilities. Republicans in many states have tried to limit motor voter. Brady said he could be open to a partnership with local election authorities.

Brady said he also wants to reduce distracted driving through more hands-on education. Brady said he would deploy Secretary of State resources to work with tire and auto industry companies to graphically show teenagers the physics of driving. He said that should improve students' focus behind the wheel.

Milhiser

Brady's GOP primary opponent, John Milhiser, has made his background as a prosecutor a focus on his campaign. Milhiser says he went after drunk drivers as a prosecutor and has no tolerance for corruption. Milhiser said he would continue to advocate for victims if elected Secretary of State.

Milhiser did not respond to multiple requests for an interview. His campaign is active on social media. Milhiser said the Secretary of State's office is first and foremost a customer service office and he would use technology to help the office better serve the public.

GOP slate

Milhiser also has the Republican party unofficial endorsement. He's on the GOP slate that starts with Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, the party's preferred candidate for governor.

Brady bristles at the party’s attempt at kingmaking.

“I believe voters resent the fact that 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 folks in Illinois, Republicans anyway, that this is what should be done,” Brady said.

Milhiser has also been active fundraising. In the first quarter, campaign filings show Milhiser out-raised Brady by more than three to one. But Milhiser started from zero. Brady had a lot more cash on hand to start and spent more than Milhiser during the quarter. Milhiser spent almost nothing.

Campaign filings show Milhiser had slightly more cash on hand at the end of the first quarter than Brady did, a difference of about $30,000.

Brady said he's disappointed he's not getting help from GOP mega-donor Ken Griffin, but he said he'll continue to focus on what he's known for, retail campaigning. “

"I’m mismatched for resources, but I’m certainly not going to be outworked,” Brady declared.

Democrats in the race

The field of Democrats in the Secretary of State's race is more crowded. The four candidates are former Illinois Treasurer and U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias, Chicago Alderman David Moore, businessman Sidney Moore, and Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia.

Giannoulias had close to $4.5 million in his campaign war chest at the start of April. That's far more than any other candidate.

Anna Valencia hopes she has a golden ticket that could overcome a fundraising shortfall. Outgoing secretary Jesse White has endorsed Valencia.

The primary election is June 28. Early voting is underway. The general election will be on Nov. 8.

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