By CARL GREEN
Springfield, IL – The new era of divided government in Illinois has begun taking shape, with one of the first disputes over how to replace the late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka.
Baar Topinka, a Republican who was supported for re-election by the Illinois AFL-CIO, won in the November election but died of a stroke on Dec. 10.
Outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn appointed an interim comptroller, his budget director Jerry Stermer, to serve until Baar Topinka’s old term was to expire in January. Rauner said he would appoint Leslie Munger, a former Unilever executive, to take over the office then.
But rather than hand the important financial office over to a Republican appointee for the next four years, the Democrat-led Senate passed a bill creating a special election so voters could choose a new comptroller. The House quickly concurred and sent the bill to Quinn, who promised to sign it into law before he left office.
State Sen. Andy Manar (D–Bunker Hill), a labor supporter with a 100 percent voting record, was among those supporting the new plan.
“This is a unique situation where an official could serve a four-year term without being elected,” he said. “Letting voters pick our comptroller during a special election is the most sensible option.”
Under the bill, if the offices of comptroller, attorney general, secretary of state or treasurer become vacant with at least 28 months left in the term, the governor would appoint a successor to serve through the first half of the term. A special election would then be held for voters to select a new office holder.
In this case, the election would be on Nov. 8, 2016.
The system is similar to one already established for filling Senate vacancies.