Speaking yesterday afternoon at the Illinois State Fair’s Democrats Day event in Springfield, Jesse White announced he would not, after 17 years as Illinois Secretary of State, run for reelection in 2018. His announcement, which was expected but still a surprise in its timing, immediately set in motion announcements and conjectures for who would fill his seat.
Before the end of the day, Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough expressed her intention to run. “I absolutely do have plans to [run],” Yarbrough told Aldertrack last night. “I’m excited about the possibilities of running and hope that I can put together a team that can help me get there.”
Yarbrough, who is also the Proviso Township Democratic Committeeman and African-American, is likely banking on following White’s path to Secretary of State. In 1998, he was Recorder of Deeds and the 27th Ward Democratic Committeeman.
Earlier this week Yarbrough was slated by the Cook County Dems for Recorder of Deeds in 2016.
A broad array of other Democrats have privately expressed interest in White’s seat over the years, including State Reps. John Bradley and Brandon Phelps, two of the few elected Democrats from south of I-70. In Chicago, sources say Hyde Park State Sen. Kwame Raoul, as well as Northwest Siders State Reps. Luis Arroyo and John D’Amico have expressed interest. Park Ridge State Sen. Dan Kotowski, a profligate fundraiser, is also a potential candidate.
“Kotowski has been waiting for something. This could be it,” says one high-ranking Democratic Party official.
Then there’s also the possibility that Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza, or Evanston’s State Sen. Daniel Biss, both already eyeing runs for Illinois Comptroller in 2016, could just pivot now or after losing the statewide election and toss their hats into the ring in 2018.
The Republican field is likely even broader. Jesse White has barely attracted any serious GOP opposition in the last 12 years, as he’s the most popular politician in Illinois, attracting 70%+ vote totals. Now that White’s will be off the ballot, Republicans will have the clearest shot to winning the Secretary of State spot they’ve had in decades.
White has not made it clear if he intends to serve out his current term, which ends in 2018. If he were to leave soon, a special election could be scheduled next year to fill the spot. If he were to leave after the 2016 elections, Gov. Bruce Rauner could appoint someone to serve in an acting position until the end of the 2018 term.