Former State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias has been mounting a primary run to be Illinois secretary of state. Giannoulias, who held the office from 2007-2011 and ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010 (he lost to former U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk) has been active on local not-for-profit boards and has worked as an investment banker. He spoke with Windy City Times about his commitments and ideas for overseeing the secretary of state's office, as well as his commitments to the state's LGBTQ+ community.
Windy City Times: What made you decide to run for the secretary of state post?
Alexi Giannoulias: A lot of damage has been done to our democracy, to our country, to our planetand I think we need a lot of people to step up and get involved in the political process. When I found out Jesse White wasn't running, I thought that this was a great office that impacts people's lives more than any office in state government.
Having the experience of having served as state treasurerbeing the only candidate that's already held statewide officeis crucial. I think that [some of the most vital issues] are modernization, the fight for voting rights, and making sure that we have the best library system in the country, as the state's chief librarian. Also, ethics are a big deal and people are tired of scandal and corruption. We ran one of the most ethical offices in the country when I was state treasurer, and I want to continue that.
WCT: What responsibilities do you see the secretary of state having to secure voting rights and ethics issues that plague Illinois politics?
AG: Republican secretaries of state are trying to hamstring voter rights in different states. At the local level, they are passing voter laws that try to disenfranchise people. We want to increase registration by making some very important technical changes to the state's automatic voter registration system, and take extra steps that voters have to take when registering at a facility. I want to be an advocate for increased early voting, also for election day being declared a national holiday.
We are the only campaign that's talked about enacting pre-registration for 16- and 17-year olds, so that they'd be automatically be eligible to vote upon turning 18. We want to be as proactive as possible.
When you see what some of these Republican laws across the country are doing, it's really scary. We need to enfranchise as many people as possible. The attack on voting rights across the country is the biggest threat to democracy we've seen in a long time.
Illinoisans are sick and tired of corruption and scandal. The secretary of state is responsible for overseeing all lobbyist registration and reports, and we need someone who's committed to ethics and transparency.
Some things we want to do [include preventing] elected officials from serving as lobbyists and we want to close the revolving for lobbyists who've left state government. We want to create a lobbyist database. We want to avoid conflicts of interest and provide more disclosure. I also want to expand the Inspector General's authority in the office.
WCT: Speak a bit about driver's licenses, the office's responsibility that impacts most Illinoisans.
AG: Modernization is at the forefront of everything that we're going to do. Wait-times have increased significantly since COVID-19. [Our campaign] announced a program last last year, the Skip the Line program, where people can actually schedule an appointment, and call in and know a time that's scheduled. The resident can receive a text message confirming their appointment with a link.
We've also talked about digital driver's licenses and ID's; other states do that. For whomever wants to do it, you can put their driver's license and ID on their mobile device. We also want the creation of a secretary of state's app. … We've also talked about having pop-up offices and office advocates. Again, being the only candidate who's held statewide office, I've actually done some of these things.
WCT: What responsibilities do you think the secretary of state's office has to Illinois' LGBTQ+ residents?
AG: Every office has a responsibility. This is what I'm very proud of: When I ran for the U.S. Senate, there were very few people in favor of gay marriage. Civil unions were starting to come up. I said I was in favor of gay marriage way before Barack Obama and way before any other Senate candidate in the country.
At the core of who I am, I believe in equality and fairness. I could have taken the easy way out and said I was for civil unions. I was for gay marriage before it was acceptable to do that. Being a leader means taking a stance on important issues. We also want to speed up the gender-neutral marker on driver's licenses. [Editor's note: The state approved gender-neutral marker on state driver's licenses and ID's in 2019, but the vendor tasked with administering REAL ID's maintains it cannot implement the change. Their contract ends in 2024.]
WCT:What do you see as the biggest political threats for the state's LGBTQ+ residents?
AG: In general, it is the fact that Republicans want to take us [backward]the repeal of voting rights, the repeal of Roe v. Wade, the non-caring about climate change, and the going after transgender and non-binary individuals. Repealing Roe vs. Wade is the first step down this slippery slope; it's happening.
WCT: Anything else you would like to add?
AG: I'm the only one who's highlighted that gender-neutral marker issue. More than 20 other states that are doing it and I think, unless I'm wrong, we're the only one addressing it. I've talked to people in the community about that, and it's a big deal. It's about safety and security for people in the transgender and non-binary communitiesthe fact that a private company is receiving taxpayer money to administer this program is "unable" to provide a simple identity designation is why people are disgusted with government. That's why I will always fight for this community. I always have and I will always be a champion for it. That's not just words. I have a track record of doing so.
See alexiforus.com .