Illinois Secretary of State candidate Jason Helland meets with Shaw Media editorial board
JOLIET – Jason Helland wants to make one thing abundantly clear to the jury that will decide whether he will become Secretary of State: He’s a local product.
Helland, the Grundy County State’s Attorney since 2012, who won the Republican nomination this past spring, is a graduate of Seneca High School, Joliet Junior College and University of St. Francis. He conceded he’s facing an uphill climb against five-term incumbent Jesse White.
On the campaign trail, Helland has said his candidacy is not being taken seriously by media across the state – especially in Chicago. He reiterated those points Monday during a sit-down with the Shaw Media Editorial Board.
“Let me tell you about the Chicago media and some of the problems I’ve had with this media,” Helland said. He said because Illinois is a Democratic state and people expect a Democratic wave in November, he should fold in the face of Jesse White, one of the most popular politicians in the state.
“The problem is absolute power corrupts absolutely, and you have to challenge the incumbents to make change,” Helland said. “I believe this is a winnable election.”
For Helland, the election is about term limits. He said his opponent wanted to retire 10 years ago, but continues to run for office because the Secretary of State’s Office is a haven for patronage jobs from the “Democratic Machine,” as Helland puts it.
Helland also said this election is also about appointments, and that White plans to step down once elected, so another Democrat can be appointed to the office.
Asked if he thought that meant Democrat J.B. Pritzker winning the gubernatorial election was a foregone conclusion and Gov. Bruce Rauner would not be able to appoint a Republican if White stepped down, Helland said “absolutely not.”
“Bruce Rauner has the ability to win,” he said. “I don’t care what the polling data says ... I don’t give any weight to polling data because ultimately on Election Day there’s going to be 3 million voters.”
If Rauner does not win, he said, there will be no reform in Illinois and the flight of Illinois residents out of the state is going to continue.
Helland’s legal background – he’s a graduate of John Marshall Law School and was a former prosecutor in Kankakee County before becoming Grundy County state’s attorney – came out during the interview. He said he is a traffic safety specialist, and would use his role as secretary of state to improve traffic safety in the state.
One big issue for Helland is the laws surrounding breathalyzers in cars for people convicted of driving under the influence. While the systems check for alcohol on a driver’s breath, it does not check for other drugs. He said he wanted to see legislation that would correct the program and expand it.
Helland also said he would cut work force from the Secretary of State’s offices by exploring opportunities for automation. He did not have specifics, but said he would look at what other similar facilities across the country were doing. It would be part of an effort to trim the budget of the second largest office in the state.
Many of Helland’s ideas to change the office would require legislation and the office could not dictate the changes unilaterally. Asked how he would work with a Democratic General Assembly, he said that White currently proposes and rejects legislation all the time to do so. Helland said he is known for working in a bipartisan matter in Grundy County.