SPRINGFIELD — State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, declared his candidacy for Illinois Secretary of State Wednesday, forgoing an all-but-certain reelection to the Illinois House to embark on a run for a statewide office that’s been in Democratic hands for more than two decades.
The Bloomington Republican is the first member of his party to enter the race to succeed retiring incumbent Jesse White, a Democrat who has held the office since 1999.
Brady, in a short speech announcing his candidacy in Chicago, said he would focus on improving an office he says “has become inefficient with long lines, outdated technology and inefficient processes.”
“As Secretary of State, my main focus will be improving the delivery of these services, starting with partnering with the brightest innovators and technology experts that the state has to offer,” Brady said.
The secretary of state's office is the state's second-largest constitutional office after the governor’s office, employing more than 4,000 people. The office’s main responsibility is issuing driver’s licenses and registering motor vehicles, but also includes keeping official state records, maintaining the 20-building Capitol Complex and overseeing the state library.
Brady was introduced by House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, who said the candidate’s focus on constituent services makes him a natural fit for the customer service-oriented office.
“Secretary of State, of all the constitutional offices, is one that is truly, truly constituent-driven,” Durkin said. “There's no better person fit for this job than Dan Brady. Dan's dedication in his public service is strictly for his constituents in his district. It's a perfect fit for this great, noble statesman to take on this position.”
In addition to Durkin, Brady's campaign announced endorsements from U.S. Reps. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro; Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville; and Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap. State Sen. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, also endorsed Brady.
Brady has been a member of the Illinois House since 2001, making him the third-most senior member of the 118-person body. He currently serves as a deputy minority leader under Durkin.
Though Republicans did not fare well under the state legislative redistricting maps passed by the Democratic-controlled legislature and signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Brady was drawn into a safe Republican district, essentially ensuring his reelection if he wished to stay in the House.
Instead, Brady will take a shot at statewide office, a heavy lift for a Republican in a state with a heavy Democratic tilt. All six statewide constitutional offices are currently held by Democrats. The last two Republicans to win statewide were Gov. Bruce Rauner and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka in 2014.
And if he wins the GOP primary, he will likely face a well-funded Democratic opponent.
Beyond constituent services, the office is viewed as a stepping stone position for candidates seeking higher office. More recently, two former secretaries of state, Republicans Jim Edgar and George Ryan, went on to become governor. Another, Democrat Alan Dixon, went on to serve two terms in the U.S. Senate.
Four Democrats have declared their candidacies for the office: former state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias; Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia; Chicago Ald. Pat Dowell and Chicago Ald. David Moore.
Brady had just $189,716 in his campaign account as of Oct. 1, according to campaign finance reports. By comparison, Giannoulias reported more than $3.45 million, Valencia had more than $700,000 and Dowell had more than $460,000.
While acknowledging that he will need to raise more money to be competitive, Brady said that “it has been proven that money isn't everything when it comes to winning political races,” pointing to recent strong GOP performances in blue-leaning states like New Jersey and Virginia.
“If they want business as usual, if they want dominancy from this particular area, then that's their choice,” Brady said, referring to the Chicago region. “But I'm going to be offering something new, something fresh, something different. And I hope they'll take me up on my candidacy.”
Brady, a fiscal conservative, is in the mold of the more traditional Republicans that dominated the state party under former Govs. Jim Thompson, Edgar and Ryan, giving hope that he could compete for votes in the moderate Chicago suburbs, which shifted significantly towards Democrats during the Trump era.
Brady is a funeral home director at Kibler-Brady-Ruestman Memorial Home. Before his election to the House, he served as McLean County coroner from 1992 to 2000.