Alexi Giannoulias gets endorsement in secretary of state bid from a former rival, Ald. Pat Dowell

Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Secretary of State candidate Alexi Giannoulias speaks during the Cook County Democratic Committee slating meeting on Dec. 14, 2021, at IBEW Local 134. Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS

Chicago Ald. Pat Dowell announced on Tuesday she’s endorsing Alexi Giannoulias for secretary of state, despite having been an ardent critic of his while running for the same office.

Dowell, who represents the 3rd Ward, last week dropped her bid to replace longtime Secretary of State Jesse White in favor of running for U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush’s 1st Congressional District seat. Rush plans to step down in January after 30 years in Illinois’ Washington delegation.

According to statement from the Giannoulias campaign, Dowell supports his positions on “protecting voter rights” and “adding more Illinoisans to the voter rolls,” as well as his promise to eliminate wait times at driver’s services facilities.

Dowell is a Democratic ward committeeman and a member of the Executive Committee of the Cook County Democratic Party, which decides which candidates to slate for office.

Asked why she endorsed Giannoulias, considering her previous criticism of his candidacy, Dowell replied in a text message, “Bottom line, I am a Democrat, a member of the Executive Committee of the CCDP and I believe that we close ranks around our slated candidate.”

Giannoulias is not making a formal endorsement in the Democratic primary for Rush’s seat, his campaign said.

Rush last week announced his endorsement of Giannoulias, as did several prominent Black politicos who had previously backed Dowell for the secretary of state’s post. Those backers include Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, Chicago Alds. Howard Brookins, 21st, and Christopher Taliaferro, 29th, and former state Senate President Emil Jones Jr.

The endorsements were made even as some Democratic Party officials have expressed a desire for a person of color to replace White, who is Black.

Giannoulias is white and his main rival for the nomination, Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia, is Latino. The other Democrat vying for the party’s nomination is South Side Ald. David Moore, who is Black and whose 17th Ward includes Chicago’s Auburn Gresham community.

Dowell’s support for Giannoulias comes despite the stinging rhetoric she directed toward him at last month’s Cook County Democratic Party’s slating session.

Dowell and Valencia questioned Giannoulias’ loyalty to the Democratic Party, highlighting his support of former Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross in his 2014 bid for state treasurer against Democrat Michael Frerichs, who won and is now seeking his third term.

“To succeed we must have a Democrat, a nominee, who appeals to the people who vote Democratic — mainly women, and precisely, African Americans,” Dowell said. “Let’s be practical. The path to victory is not paved with gold. Money can buy endorsements and influence, but it cannot buy votes.”

Giannoulias narrowly won county slating. Despite that close vote, he holds a solid lead in fundraising. By the end of 2021, his campaign had over $4 million in cash on hand, more than Dowell, Valencia and Moore combined.

Valencia’s campaign issued a statement calling Dowell’s endorsement of Giannoulias “baffling considering she referred to him as a ‘flawed candidate’ and ‘a drag’ on the Democratic ticket just two weeks ago.”

While she backtracks on her stance of supporting women and women of color, our campaign remains more committed than ever to electing Anna Valencia as the first woman as Illinois Secretary of State,” the statement read.

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