Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White defeated his last three Republican opponents by at least 28 points, and no one on the Republican side has declared an intention yet to try and change the trend in 2014.
Regardless of who jumps in the race, the prospect of unseating the four-term incumbent will be a difficult task if history is any indicator. White’s first election to the seat in 1998 was the closest competition he ever received for it, and he still managed to win by 14 points over Republican Al Salvi. Since then, White has produced a sure landslide every four years, winning by 40, 28 and 43 points in 2002, 2006 and 2010, respectively.
“Jesse White is tough to beat, he is, but he’s beatable,” said Aurora businessman Robert Enriquez, the 2010 Republican nominee for Secretary of State. “He’s one of the most well liked politicians in the history of Illinois – that’s not merited, not based on performance."
Enriquez said he learned a lot from his experience, even calling it enriching, despite the defeat. He also said, though, that the experience taught him a lot about why the Illinois Republican Party could be failing not only in this race but in statewide offices in general.
Secretary of State is of course not the only statewide office to remain out of GOP hands with this much perceived hopelessness. In addition to decade long defeats for Governor and Attorney General, Democrat Dan Hynes won the Comptroller seat by more than 30 points in both 2006 and 2002, and by 19 points in 1998, all before Judy Baar Topinka eventually won the open race for it in 2010.
Enriquez said he believes a more inclusive Illinois GOP with more appeal to Latinos and African Americans and less of a focus on social issues would be able to preform better in statewide elections. Moreover, he said the party needs to do a better job supporting its candidates, as he cited his own experience in which he claimed a couple key Republicans retracted fundraising promises given to him.
“Before the primary, [Illinois Senate Minority Leader] Christine Radogno told me $50,000 would be the [fundraising] floor, not the ceiling,” he said. “After the primary, she told me she never said that.”
“You have got to be able to trust the person next to you,” he continued. “Jesse White is beatable – get an extraordinary candidate in there, support him, there’s no downside to doing so. What are you going to lose? Nothing. You’ll be a stand-up party.”
However, past results could be holding any possible candidate back. In 2010, a year considered to be a wave election for conservatives, White grabbed 70 percent of the vote. Now, Secretary of State is the only statewide office in Illinois without any Republican candidates even rumored for 2014, as there are multiple contenders either declared or considering vying for governor, treasurer and attorney general.
White is the second longest serving Secretary of State in Illinois history and has been in elected office in the state since 1974, first serving in the General Assembly.