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Obama Protege Receives Early Endorsement From Former Secretary of Education


Alexi Giannoulias could be the next Secretary of State for Illinois. Though he hasn’t yet formally announced, he’s started the process, and his political history and a recent endorsement could be a very big boost.

(Photo by Ralf-Finn Hestoft/Corbis via Getty Images)

In a story previously reported on Politico, the current Secretary of State, Jesse White, expects to retire in 2022, and Giannoulias, calling White “one of the finest public servants I have ever known,” says he “would work very hard to try and continue his legacy of caring and principled leadership.” Giannoulias has reportedly already sought Secretary White’s endorsement and has begun fundraising. He says that after the 2020 elections really laid bare the dangers to democracy, Secretaries of State are “on the front lines, ensuring that everyone can participate freely and fairly in elections.”

Today Arne Duncan, former US Secretary of Education from January 2009 through July 2016 under President Obama tweeted out an apparent endorsement of Giannoulias’ anticipated run for Secretary of State in Illinois.

I’ve known Alexi since he was a high school basketball star.
I know his heart, I know his passion for service, I know his work ethic, I know how much he cares.
That’s why I am with @Giannoulias

— Arne Duncan (@arneduncan) January 11, 2021

Giannoulias already has some history in Illinois public office, having served as State Treasurer from 2007 to 2011. He also ran for U.S. Senate to represent his state, but was narrowly defeated by the Republican candidate, as Ballotpedia documents.

In his Senate election, Giannoulias also had the endorsement of President Barack Obama, who lauded Alexi for ethics reforms he enacted as State Treasurer, and for being steady and dependable, as well as for working to save jobs in his state. You can see that speech in C-SPAN video here.

In further remarks in Giannoulias’ support (full transcript here) Obama described him as follows:

He has been a great advocate on behalf of the people of Illinois, and he’s in this for the right reasons. He’s not in it for the special interests; he’s in it for your interests. You may not always agree with him, but you always know where he stands. He’s comfortable in his own skin. He doesn’t shift with the wind. He doesn’t pretend to be something that he’s not.

The Chicago Tribune reported at the time that this endorsement wasn’t given without cause — Giannoulias said he had to work for it, and that when he first approached Obama about a political run, he was told he shouldn’t try until age 35 (at the time, he was 28) but he was able to win over the president as he ran for the Senate seat Obama had once held himself.

Illinois Secretary of State is likely to be a race with a long list of hopeful candidates, but they won’t all show up with the experience of having already held a statewide office, and few if any are likely to have a history of endorsement to rival the support of Barack Obama

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