SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) – The general election matchup for the Secretary of State’s office has been set. Veteran incumbent Jesse White, an 83-year-old Democrat, will face Republican newcomer Jason Helland, the Grundy County State’s Attorney, in a November contest.
The unlikely prospect of White facing a primary challenger faded away completely on Tuesday night when State Senator Michael Hastings (D-Tinley Park) officially dropped his primary bid for the statewide office after holding meetings with the White campaign. Hastings took some heat from Democratic party insiders when he initially filed his petitions to run for the office in December. At the time, he said he wanted to be prepared in the event White dropped out or abruptly retired, even though the White campaign said they called Hastings to assure him he was running.
Two years ago, White had said he would not run for re-election, but reversed course in August and said he would not be leaving his post just yet. The Illinois GOP said White’s about-face was “no surprise, coming from a career politician and Madigan patronage chief who consistently breaks his word.”
Wednesday morning, White plans to name Hastings as an “honorary co-chair” of his campaign committee. In a joint statement, White intends to praise Hastings as a “true champion of working-class men and women,” while Hastings will say he is “proud to join him in his campaign.”
Hastings’ departure from the race means White will run unopposed in his fifth consecutive primary election cycle. White has held the office longer than any of his 36 predecessors.
Helland likely faces a steep uphill battle against an incumbent who has coasted to five straight easy election victories, and he very well may have to do it without the help of the party’s top donor. In recent comments to a Joliet newspaper, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner left Helland’s name off of a short list of statewide candidates he would be heavily invested in helping to elect in 2018.