By DOUG WILSON
Herald-Whig Senior Writer
Laura Kent Donahue said she wants to "get back to work" and sees the Adams County circuit clerk position as "the perfect fit" for her skills.
Donahue, a former state senator, made her formal campaign announcement Thursday morning in front of the Adams County Courthouse. She announced upcoming campaign events elsewhere in Adams County in coming weeks.
"Government is what I know," Donahue said. "I still have a lot to share and I've been waiting for a long time to find the right fit, the right possibility of returning to elected office."
The Quincy Republican served in the Illinois Senate for 21 years. She was appointed to fill the seat left vacant by her mother, state Sen. Mary Lou Kent, who died in 1981. Donahue lost a re-election bid in 2002 to state Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville. Within days after that loss, she was appointed to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board by then-Gov. George Ryan, where she received a salary of $80,000 a year. Donahue said she served on the board for about 14 months before former Gov. Rod Blagojevich removed her.
Incumbent Circuit Clerk Randy Frese, R-Paloma, is not seeking a third term. He is running for the 47th Senate District seat now held by Sullivan. Frese, 52, became the first Adams County Republican to serve as circuit clerk in 52 years after he was elected in 2004.
"It is wonderful that someone with her past experience would consider service at the county level. That makes a wonderful statement," Frese said.
Donahue said her experience as a legislator will help her seek changes in state law that will help the circuit clerks statewide. She said current laws require that some of the fines and fees are forwarded to individual state agencies. Workers in the county offices must track those amounts and make payments to various offices. A more streamlined process is proposed by Donahue.
"It's not efficient" under the current system and needs to be addressed by the Legislature, Donahue said.
Donahue also wishes to keep updating the technology used in the office. She said Frese has done much to boost computerization and training of the 14 staff members.
Donahue would not speculate whether how long she might serve.
"I have to get past the first hurdle" and get elected, she said.
The circuit clerk's office has an annual salary of $55,673 this year. Donahue, who receives an annual pension of $72,000 from her years in the Senate, said her interest in the circuit clerk's office has nothing to do with adding to her pension.
"I'm not ready to go off into the sunset ... or off on an iceberg. They say 60 is the new 50," Donahue said.
Donahue also denied she was sought out by Republicans who wanted her to run for the circuit clerk's job to keep it in the party. She said she sought out other Republicans and let them know she was interested in running and asked for their feedback.
She said considered a run for mayor of Quincy in 2013 but decided the circuit clerk position would better fit her skills and experience.
During her term in the Legislature, Donahue served as a member of the GOP Senate leadership for eight years. She said her time in leadership allowed her to be more effective for Western Illinois. She said helping bring about construction of prisons, highways and other infrastructure rank among her top accomplishments. Donahue also sponsored legislation that ended the practice of health care providers sending women home from hospitals immediately after childbirth.