Little-known Republican aims for secretary of state

Wednesday, November 21, 2001

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- The head of the Winnebago County Board announced Tuesday that she will seek the Republican nomination for secretary of state and promised a top-to-bottom review of the office's duties.

Kris Cohn acknowledged she is little known outside the Rockford area and has just started raising the millions of dollars she will need for a campaign.

But she said hard campaign work and a focus on improving the office -- especially customer service -- could make her a formidable opponent for Democratic incumbent Jesse White.

"I want to bring together the best and brightest minds in both the public and private sectors and look at every department, every line item and every function that the secretary of state's office entails," Cohn said during a news conference at one of several stops around the state. "If things are working, that's great. But if they're not, let's change them."

The biggest problem for the secretary of state's office in recent years has been cases of bribery uncovered by federal investigators. Operation Safe Road, which began when now-Gov. George Ryan was running the office, has produced 41 convictions of people involved in schemes to obtain driver's licenses in exchange for bribes.

Cohn, 49, said she considers the problem serious, but her only suggestion for preventing corruption was to include the issue in the review she plans to conduct.

She also had no opinion on Jesse White's proposal for legislation to give the secretary of state's inspector general more authority -- including subpoena powers -- to investigate corruption. Cohn said she had not reviewed the proposal.

No other Republicans have yet announced for the office.

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