By CARL GREEN
Edwardsville, IL – The office of Secretary of State is treasured in Illinois politics for the way it affects almost every state resident.
With longtime Secretary of State Jesse White at the end of his term, after 24 years, the seat is up for grabs next year, and potential candidates are already making the rounds –– Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia, who grew up in a union household in Granite City, and Alexi Giannoulias, a Chicagoan who campaigned extensively in the Metro-East before his 2007 election to state treasurer and 2010 run for the U.S. Senate.
Their campaigns made virtual visits to the Metro-East recently in online events hosted by the Madison County Democratic Party, led by Laborers’ Randy Harris.
Valencia was appointed Chicago city clerk in 2017 and won election to the post in 2019. But it was in Madison County where she got her start while in grade school, campaigning door-to-door alongside her father, Joe Valencia, a member of Painters Local 120, whose family immigrated from Mexico.
After finishing Granite City High School, Anna Valencia earned a degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and worked an internship in the Madison County Clerk’s office under longtime Clerk Mark Von Nida, and another in 2006 with Dave Hylla’s campaign for circuit judge.
She was U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin’s campaign manager in 2014 and a senior adviser in 2015 to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s re-election, among other campaign positions. She replaced Susan Mendoza as city clerk after Mendoza was elected Illinois comptroller.
FOCUS ON WORKING FAMILIES
As city clerk, Valencia has worked to ease burdens the office has placed on the city’s residents, such as compiling debt for unpaid city stickers and suspending driver’s licenses for late payments.
“Working families there want the same things as working families in Madison County,” she said. “They want to be able to retire in dignity, they want good health care, they want to make sure that their kids have opportunities and that they can afford a higher education or whatever they choose to do. We’ve got to do better at bringing people together around those common core issues, and that’s what I’ve done the past four years.”
As an officeholder, Valencia has negotiated contracts with AFSCME, which represents about 70 of the office’s 102 employees. She believes her Labor background has helped her maintain good relationships with her employees and the union.
She supports voting by mail and automatic voter registration for driver’s license recipients.
Valencia’s campaign can be reached through her website at voteannavalencia.com.
FIGHTING FOR WORKERS
Giannoulias was elected state treasurer as a young Labor supporter in 2007 and threw his name in, with Barack Obama’s blessing, to win the nomination for U.S. Senate in 2010, only to be edged out by a moderate Republican, Mark Kirk. In both campaigns, Gianoulias refused donations from corporations, PACs and lobbyists.
As state treasurer, he worked to modernize the office with increased transparency, ethics reform and services to needy and military families. He also develop scholarship programs and supported debt relief, sustainable development and education.
In 2011, he chose not to run for re-election and went into the private business world, earning a law degree at Tulane and becoming a bank vice president. He has served as chairman of the Illinois Community College System, on the Chicago Public Library Board and several charitable boards.
Giannoulias told the Madison County Democrats he has fond memories of campaigning in the Metro-East.
“No one worked harder for me than the folks in Madison County,” he said. “To the men and women of Organized Labor, I would not have won the state treasurer’s race without you, I wouldn’t have been the nominee for the U.S. Senate, and I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what we did in the state treasurer’s office without you. When I ran for the U.S. Senate, Organized Labor carried me on their back, fought for me, went to war for me like I never could have imagined, and I’ll never forget that.”
Gianoulias has been endorsed by Chicago-based UFCW locals 881 and 1546.
“I’m honored and proud to stand with UFCW workers to advance their rights and recover from this crisis stronger than ever,” he said. “I will continue to serve as a voice for them in Springfield and for all hard-working men and women across our state.”
Giannoulis’ campaign can be reached at through his website at alexiforus.com.