Bloomington state Rep. Dan Brady crushed former federal prosecutor John Milhiser Tuesday to win the GOP bid to replace longtime Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White.
With 80% of 9,839 precincts reporting, Brady led Milhiser 77% to 23%, enough to notch the victory and take on the Democratic primary winner, Alexi Giannoulias, in November.
Brady, a 21-year General Assembly veteran and deputy minority leader, has promised to modernize the secretary of state’s office, which is responsible for driver services, corporate record-keeping, organ donation sign-ups and more.
“Tonight has shown that hard work still counts for something in Illinois politics,” Brady said as he declared victory at his election night party at a Bloomington restaurant. His campaign raised about one-third the funds of Milhiser’s.
It’s been more than 23 years since a Republican has held the secretary of state office — Brady would be the first since George Ryan, who was elected governor in 1999, and Jim Edgar before him. White, who has since served six consecutive terms since 1999 and grown into one of Illinois’ most recognizable public officials, is retiring.
Brady said he expects to appeal to voters across the aisle in a general election because “the secretary of state’s office isn’t about public policy, it’s about public service” — and he believes he has a unifying track-record.
Brady, the former McLean County coroner, was endorsed by a couple firefighters’ unions — including Chicago Fire Fighters Union Local No. 2 — and the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police State Lodge, as well as the Illinois Education Association, a statewide teachers union.
He has promised not to use the secretary of state’s office as a political stepping stone as his Republican predecessors did. And he pointed to his work with White during his tenure in the State Capitol on insurance and organ donation legislation.
“Great guy, gotta love Jesse White,” Brady said during the campaign. “But the office has fallen behind the times. When the office falls behind as far behind as it has, it stymies business in Illinois.”
Milhiser, of Springfield, was part of a slate of candidates for statewide office recruited and backed by billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, who doled out over $700,000 to Milhiser’s campaign.
Conceding the race Tuesday, Milhiser said: “Unfortunately we came up short. But we must keep fighting to make Illinois better, to root out corruption, and to make our communities safer.
“We cannot allow our state and country to continue down this anti-police, anti-law and order, and anti-American path towards destruction.”
Supported by the Illinois Republican Party establishment, Milhiser served as the Sangamon County state’s attorney for 16 years before former President Donald Trump appointed him in 2018 to the Illinois Central District’s top federal prosecutor post. He stepped down after President Joe Biden took office and began teaching high school.
He also had promised to update the secretary of state office’s technology but was particularly focused on rooting out corruption in Illinois politics.
Milhiser took a shot at Brady during the campaign, saying the next official to hold the position shouldn’t be “a statehouse insider or career politician.” Brady retorted that “this office doesn’t prosecute anybody. It’s supposed to provide services.”
Contributing: Tom Schuba