By John O’Connor
AP Political Writer
SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced Thursday that he’ll seek a sixth term, reversing earlier declarations that he would step down after two decades in an office that was tainted by corruption prior to his arrival.
“I’m your man,” the 83-year-old Democrat told a crowd of 1,800 attending a brunch in Springfield hosted by the Democratic County Chairman’s Association.
He said that while the “office is a far better place now than it was” when he took office, there’s more work for him to do in improving road conditions, customer service and teen driving programs.
White, widely known for the Jesse White Tumblers, a program he started in 1959 to provide an alternative to gangs and drugs for inner-city young people, was first elected secretary of state in 1998. He replaced Republican George Ryan, who was elected governor but later went to federal prison for political corruption mostly tied to his two terms as secretary of state.
The Illinois Republican Party released a statement mocking White for saying in 2009 that his fourth term would be his last and again, as late as last year, saying he’d call it quits. No Republican has announced a candidacy for the office.
White has proven a prodigious vote getter. The former state representative and Cook County Recorder of Deeds has won five races for secretary of state by an average plurality of 1.1 million votes, according to an Associated Press compilation and analysis of State Board of Election figures. His winning percentages of 70 percent in 2010 and 69 percent in 2002 are the fourth- and fifth-largest of any statewide race since 1900, according to the analysis.
White’s announcement played well with a record crowd for the annual summer gathering. It has traditionally preceded an old-school campaign rally at the state fair, which Democrats skipped this year.
The event featured nine Democratic candidates for governor, most of whom aimed as much firepower at President Donald Trump as Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.