By CARL GREEN
Granite City, IL –Anna Valencia’s campaign for secretary of state has kicked into high gear with endorsements from more unions and from two top officeholders – Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the retiring Secretary of State, Jesse White.
Valencia celebrated at a boisterous fund-raising rally in downtown Granite City last week with political and union supporters and more than a few family members.
A Granite City native from a union family, Valencia, 37, has been the city clerk of Chicago for five years and is in a three-way primary race for the Democratic nomination to succeed the retiring White in one of the most important and powerful political positions in the state. The primary is on June 28. White, 87, has been in the position since 1999.
The mood was celebratory at the event, in space provided by former Circuit Judge Ann Callis. The additional union endorsements came from the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois, the Illinois Nurses Association, Insulators Local 1, the Bricklayers Union, the Painters Union, and Unite Here Local 1 in Chicago.
Valencia’s top opponent remains former state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, who leads in fundraising and also has received numerous endorsements from unions and political figures. He also leads in name recognition. The third candidate is Chicago Alderman David Moore.
SIGNATURES TURNED IN
The new endorsements for Valencia were a signal that her campaign is alive and well. She just turned in more than enough – 18,000 – signatures to place her on the primary ballot, many of them coming from Metro-East supporters.
“We’re raising money, and we’re down here for a fundraiser in my hometown of Granite City,” she said in welcoming the crowd. “It’s great to be able to campaign with my family. My parents alone got 1,500 signatures, with the help of family, friends and supporters. It’s the second-largest area outside of Chicago in getting signatures for us.
“We’ve been working hard for the last 13 months, and we’ve raised over $1 million,” she added. “We’re going to raise what we need to be on TV, and get our message out in the Chicago area and downstate. I feel like we’ve got the wind with us, and we’re ready to make history as the first woman secretary of state, and we’re going to bring all these folks with us.”
White’s endorsement was not unexpected, but it still came as a bit of a surprise to Valencia. She was in Springfield and got a call from him, saying he would be putting out a press release and help with fundraising.
“Secretary White was a big endorsement,” Valencia said. “He’s led with integrity, character and heart, he always remembers where he’s come from and how to get back, and I’m very honored to have that support.
“I’ve learned from him that you’ve got to show up when it counts and people need you, not just when news reporters are there. He’s always been accountable, he’s always been accessible, and that’s how I’m going to be. I’m going to make sure I follow his lead in leading with integrity and character, making sure I’m accessible to the people that I serve and serve with. I’m very excited to build upon his legacy and foundation.”
Pritzker, too, called Valencia to announce his support, saying her innovation and use of technology to improve services in the city clerk’s office made her the best person for the job.
“He said, ‘I think you would make a great, terrific secretary of state and I’m ready to come out and endorse you,’ ” Valencia said.
Valencia has also been endorsed by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, as well as trail-blazing Lieutenant Governor Julianna Stratton, who Valencia praised for her work to address downstate issues affecting farmers, agriculture, business owners and veterans – not just those that affect Chicago.
“She thought it was time to break another glass ceiling – as the first women secretary of state, just like she was the first African-American to be elected lieutenant governor,” Valencia said.
NOT ABOUT ZIP CODE
At the Granite City event, she recounted how she was able to get so far. It was with a lot of help.
The Granite City rally was attended by Valencia’s father, Joe, her mother, Debbie, and Linda Ames, the teacher who recognized her potential and helped her on the path toward public service.
“I’m the Chicago city clerk, but I am also a girl from Granite City, born and raised on East 27th Street. My dad has been a union painter for 37 years and he’s going to retire May 4.
“This race is not about me. It’s not about my name on the door, it’s not about the ego. It’s what I represent. I cross the state and I see young people; I see girls, I see what it means for me to be standing up. I know what it would mean to my daughter to be the first woman to ever hold this spot of secretary of state.”
“I also see that it means your zip code doesn’t define your outcome in life, that no matter where you grow up in Illinois, you too can have these possibilities. A lot of hard work, a lot of faith, a great family to hold you down, and here we are, about to make history.”