WNIJ continues to review important races in the upcoming Illinois Primary Election on March 20. So far, we’ve outlined the crowded races for Illinois Governor and Attorney General. On this week’s Friday Forum, we outline the rest of the statewide offices appearing on the ballot. They include Treasurer, Secretary of State, and Comptroller.
Matthew Dabros is chair of the Public Policy and Administration department as well as a political science professor at Aurora University. He says there may not be too many surprises with the outcomes of the primary, but things could heat up when the parties face off in November.
Illinois State Treasurer Mike Frerichs, a Democrat, is the incumbent. It’s an office with responsibilities that may not be familiar to all voters.
Dabros says Frerichs has made the office more accessible. He points to the treasurer’s website that specifies the services that the office provides. That includes a portal where residents can identify whether they have unclaimed property.
Dabros says there’s information about the Secure Choice Savings Program, which allows certain companies to enroll employees in a default Roth IRA administered by the treasurer’s office. He says there also is information about the Charitable Trust Stabilization Fund, which helps non-profits.
Frerichs does not have a challenger from his own party in the primary, but there is a Republican on the ballot. Jim Dodge is an Orland Park Village Trustee. Dabros says Frerichs may have an easier time in the general election against Dodge than he did in the last election against Tom Cross. That election outcome was in doubt for a number of months. Frerichs ultimately defeated Cross by just a few thousand votes. For this race, Dabros says Dodge does a thorough job explaining to voters why he is running for the treasurer’s office but does not go into specifics at this point about his post-election priorities.
An office that easily could be confused with the treasurer’s office is that of comptroller. The Illinois Constitution specifies that the comptroller maintains the state’s fiscal accounts and orders payments into and out of the funds held by the treasurer, Dabros explains. In other words, the comptroller is the one who disburses state funds.
The current comptroller is Susana Mendoza, a Democrat. She’s a former state lawmaker and has been critical of Gov. Bruce Rauner. Dabros says that could sway voters along ideological leanings.
“I think that, if a voter or constituent is a Republican, they’re probably going to look very critically at the comments that Comptroller Mendoza has made,” Dabros said. “On the other hand, if the voter and constituent is a Democrat, they’re probably going to look very favorably towards the comments that she’s made that are critical of the governor -- particularly given the financial crisis we find ourselves in.”
Mendoza is unopposed in the primary. Darlene Senger also is running unopposed on the Republican side. Dabros expects the fall election could be more difficult to predict. He says Senger has a number of qualifications. She was a Naperville City Council member and a member of the Illinois House of Representatives from 2009-2015. She recently joined Gov. Rauner’s office as deputy chief of staff for legislative affairs.
Secretary of State
When it comes to an “incumbency advantage,” Secretary of State Jesse White should have an easy time in March and November, according to Dabros. White, a Democrat, is running unopposed in the primary at the age of 83. If elected in the general election, it would be his sixth term in office.
Dabros notes that, in previous elections, White has won by large margins.
“Of course it’s too early to predict exactly what the electoral outcome would be,” Dabros said, "but certainly based on past precedent he’s been very successful."
There is a Republican running for the office. Jason Helland is the Grundy County State’s Attorney. He’s from Mazon and he attended the John Marshall Law School from 2000-2003.
Despite the predictive nature of the spring ballot, Dabros says the fall outcome is still up in the air.
“Certainly we have a very contentious midterm election coming up,” Dabros said. “Many of us will look at the 2018 midterm elections as a referendum on the Trump administration. So I think that, depending on the turnout for the midterm elections and depending upon what the direction is, certainly this is going to affect the likely results for the down ballot races.”