CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White is not apologizing for comparing State Sen. Annazette Collins (D-Chicago) to convicted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, but Collins is not following through on a threat to sue White for libel.
Collins had threatened to sue White over comments he made about her after withdrawing his support for Collins and backing her opponent in the Democratic primary, Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins.
In the Chicago Sun-Times over the weekend, White described Collins as “the most unethical person in government. You can almost put Blagojevich beside her.”
As CBS 2’s Mai Martinez reports, since then, Collins has been calling for an apology from White for comparing her to the convicted former governor.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports
“I was really disappointed that the secretary would say such a thing,” Collins said.
She had threatened to file a libel suit against him if she didn’t get that apology by Tuesday morning, when the courts reopened after the Presidents Day holiday weekend, but has yet to file any lawsuit.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports, Collins said she won’t file any lawsuit, claiming she’s satisfied with a comment from White that he could have softened his statement.
Although White said he’s not backing down from his comments, he said maybe he could have put his criticism another way.
Collins said she’s ready to move on.
“We have high unemployment in my district and we have housing, education and other issues … to deal with,” she said. “So, hopefully Mr. White will turn his attention to those issues, as I will.”
White said he wasn’t concerned about the threatened lawsuit and stood by his criticism of Collins.
“Early on in Rod Blagojevich’s campaign, I saw some personality flaws. I saw some problems with his honesty and integrity,” White said Tuesday. “Then after we swore Annazette Collins in, I saw that same pattern emerging. And, so, that’s why I said what I said.”
White nominated Collins to fill State Sen. Rickey Hendon’s seat after he retired, but White has said he didn’t know at the time about allegations that she awarded legislative scholarships to students outside her district in violation of state law for legislative scholarships.
He also said he wasn’t aware at the time of allegations that Collins didn’t live in her district, as required by state law.
Collins has claimed a West Side condo as her home while also receiving a homeowner’s exemption on property taxes for a Hyde Park condo outside her district.
Collins said claiming the exemption on the Hyde Park condo – a move that requires a home to be the taxpayer’s primary residence – was a simple error.
“We didn’t know, and so we made a mistake,” Collins said, adding that she’s lived in her district the entire time she’s represented it.
But what really upset White was some of Collins’ campaign literature, which he felt implied she could fix driver’s license problems.
He said Collins sent out flyers claiming she could get constituents’ drivers licenses back after they lost them, “indicating that she had pull within the Secretary of State’s office that would bring that about and I found that to be offensive.”
“I’ve been in this office for 13 years and no scandal. I’ve been in office for 36 years and no scandal. I won’t stand idly by and allow anyone to use their position, or their authority to get anything from this office in terms of a license, if they don’t deserve it,” White said.
In response to that, Collins said her office was only offering help to people with driver’s license problems.
Her campaign sent a copy of what they say is the campaign brochure in question. It reads “Lost your license? We’ll fight so you can drive! Contact our offices today so your State Senator can direct you in resolving matters with the Secretary of State.”