Saturday, August 18, 2018

Short-term ‘retirement’ post turns out to be a long-term one for Jesse White

It was a couple of decades ago when Jesse White ran for election as Illinois secretary of state.

WHITE: At age 84, is he up to sixth term?
The line of logic that existed amongst his political supporters is that White had been an 18-year member of the Illinois House of Representatives from Chicago’s Near West side who then returned home to Chicago for a term as Cook County’s recorder of deeds.

AT AGE 64, sending him back to Springfield for a term as secretary of state (replacing George Ryan, who gave up the post for his now-infamous stint as governor) was sort of a reward for White.

He could finish out his political career “on top,” so to speak. Before wandering off into a retirement from a life of community and public service, while occasionally reminiscing about “what might have been” if he had made it to the major leagues with the Chicago Cubs back in the 1960s.

Shows you how little we all knew back then.

For now, 20 years later, White is about to finish his fifth four-year term as the man who runs the state government office that – most prominently – puts his name on everybody’s driver’s license. Along with a whole slew of other services that makes the local secretary of state’s office the one Illinois residents most frequently deal with in their daily lives.

HELLAND: Out to make it a prime issue
NOW, COME NOV. 6, White will be the Democratic nominee seeking a sixth term, taking on Republican Jason Helland and Libertarian Steve Dutner. Both of whom are ridiculously young, compared to White.

Dutner is a 2002 college graduate, while Helland was in high school back when White was running the recorder of deeds office.

It almost brings to my mind the old Ronald Reagan debate wisecrack, the one where he said of presidential opponent Walter Mondale, “I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

REAGAN: Able to beat it down against Mondale
The point being that Reagan already was 73 years old, and wasn’t about to be intimidated out of running for office just because some people would prefer he retire to memories of his days as a B-grade movie actor.

JUST AS SOME people, including Republican Helland, are trying to make age an issue in this election cycle.

They’re claiming that electing White to a sixth term is really nothing more than putting control of picking the secretary of state into the powers-that-be of the Democratic party.

They’re claiming White has every intention of retiring shortly after his re-election – thereby giving the governor the ability to hand-pick a replacement – similar to how Rauner in 2014 picked an Illinois comptroller when Judy Baar Topinka died before she could be sworn into office.
An 'alternate life' version of White … 

Of course, Republicans want to believe that all Democrats are puppets of Michael Madigan, the Illinois House speaker and state Democratic chairman whom they’re trying to demonize.

OR COULD THIS be the admission by Republicans that Bruce Rauner’s re-election dreams are little more than delusions? Which means a “Gov. J.B. Pritzker” will go along with whomever Madigan desires for the post!

Even though the real admission is that Helland is a candidate with no chance of winning secretary of state, and is merely doing service to the GOP by allowing his name to fill the ballot slot.
… if there hadn't been an 'Ernie Banks?'

Because running the Grundy County state’s attorney and a former prosecutor in Kankakee County for the post comes across as falling way short of White’s political service dating back to 1975, and his work with kids, particularly leading the Jesse White Tumblers, that goes back even further.

About the only reason people might find a negative about White is his time as a professional athlete – playing first base for Chicago Cubs minor league affiliates back in the 1960s and futilely trying to beat out Ernie Banks for his major league job. Then again, I don’t think even Chicago White Sox fans would hold that against him.


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