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State Sen. Hastings to join crowded secretary of state race: ‘I have the experience that no other candidate has’

Hastings joins a growing field of candidates interested in succeeding retiring Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White that already includes City Clerk Anna Valencia and former State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.

State Sen. Michael Hastings in 2016.
State Sen. Michael Hastings in 2016.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times file

Vowing to “modernize the office for the next decades to come,” a suburban state senator on Tuesday announced plans to launch a bid for Illinois secretary of state, becoming the third candidate seeking to replace retiring Democratic incumbent Jesse White.

State Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Tinley Park, is expected to formally kick off his campaign Wednesday morning at an Elk Grove Village event where he is to receive the endorsement of the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters.

The field of candidates eying White’s job is becoming increasingly crowded.

But Hastings said he’s “not your typical politician” and plans to draw on the experiences he’s had to help differentiate himself from those already in the race and those still deciding whether to jump in.

“Jesse White has really built a strong foundation for the office, but with Jesse’s retirement I think young, energetic leadership that has experience can really modernize the office for the next decades to come,” said Hastings, 40.

“My leadership experience — whether it’s in the military, whether it’s in corporate America or whether it’s in the General Assembly — it’s proven leadership ... and I feel that I could do a good job for the people.”

State Sen. Michael Hastings questions a state budget official during a committee hearing in 2015.
State Sen. Michael Hastings questions a state budget official during a committee hearing in 2015.
Brian Jackson/For The Sun-Times

Hastings has served in the Senate for nine years and is a majority caucus whip in the state’s upper legislative chamber.

Before his time in the General Assembly, he was a captain in the Army, a role that saw him deployed to Iraq running ground and air operations for the commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division. The senator later worked for Johnson & Johnson.

The job he is seeking now is considered one of the state’s top political prizes. Principally charged with issuing driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations, it’s an office full of easy publicity, thousands of jobs and the potential to serve as a stepping stone to even higher office.

Hastings joins a growing field of candidates interested in succeeding White that already includes former state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia, who has formed an exploratory committee but has not yet held an official kick-off event.

City Clerk Anna Valencia, left, in 2019; Then state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, right, in 2010.
City Clerk Anna Valencia, left, in 2019; Then state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, right, in 2010.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times file; Brian Kersey/Getty Images

Last month, Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) said she’s considering a bid for the office. Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough previously said she is also considering a run for the position.

Hastings insists he offers something different.

“If you go to a driver’s facility, that’s your interface with government. ... That’s where people derive their opinion. And I want to make sure, for decades to come, people feel as if their government is working for them — not that it isn’t already, but it could always be improved upon,” Hastings said.

Cook County Clerk Karen A. Yarbrough, left; Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), right.
Cook County Clerk Karen A. Yarbrough, left, in 2019; Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), right, in 2019.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

“And for me, whether it’s setting up an appointment system in the secretary of state’s office or modernizing the website so that it’s not all bunched up the way it is ... for me, I have the experience that no other candidate has ... and my experience will make government better.”

Hastings will formally launch his bid for the office at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters Apprentices and Training Program, 1256 Estes Ave., in Elk Grove Village.