Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White formally launched his bid for a record fifth term today, with the popular 79-year-old saying there's more work to be done.
White already is on track to become the longest-serving secretary of state at the completion of his current term. At one point he declared his fourth term would be his last before he changed his mind.
"I used to jump out of perfectly good airplanes," said White, a former paratrooper. "You never jump out of a plane and stop half way, it's all the way... when there is a mission before you, you see it from its beginning to its conclusion."
White was first elected to the office in 1998 as federal officials unveiled the licenses-for-bribes scandal that enveloped predecessor George Ryan, who went on to become governor for one term before serving federal prison time.
White touted his cleanup of the office following that scandal, as well as more recent efforts to enact tougher driving standards for teens and require motorists convicted of drunk driving to breathe into a device to prove their sobriety each time they get behind the wheel.
He has also led efforts to crack down on cell phone use and text messaging while driving. If elected again, White said he plans to continue efforts to strengthen laws against distracted driving.
White did acknowledge one mistake: his backing of Rep. Derrick Smith. White helped Smith get appointed to the Illinois House in 2011 only to see Smith be charged with bribery by federal authorities less than a year later. White said he "tried to set the record straight" by calling for Smith to step down and backing his challenger, but voters decided to re-elect Smith anyway, even after Smith was kicked out of the Illinois House.
White launched his re-election bid at a downtown hotel where he was introduced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who noted that White supported his efforts to become mayor. Emanuel said he wasn't just backing White to return to the favor, but because of their "shared bond" of public service and White's "commitment to the next generation coming behind us." White is well known for the youth tumbling team that bears his name.
White will make another campaign stop today in Springfield. A Republican candidate has yet to surface, leading White to quip that "life is good."
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