-By Warner Todd Huston
With the passing of Illinois State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, the state is faced with a bit of a dilemma. How should she be replaced?
After a lifetime of service to the state, Topinka passed away at the age of 70 from the effects of a stroke suffered last week. She was serving her second term as state comptroller to which she was just re-elected this year.
But her passing comes at an inconvenient time for state government as the current governor has only a month to go in his final term and the next governor is from the opposing party.
Some initially feared that Democrat Governor Pat Quinn could appoint a replacement that the new governor would be stuck with. That, though, seems not to be the case.
According to Ann M. Lousin, a law professor at The John Marshall Law School, Quinn can only appoint someone to fill the role until January 12, 2015 and then the new governor, Republican Bruce Rauner, can then install his own choice for his own gubernatorial term and until the next election for comptroller.
There was also some talk of a special election but there is no special election called for under the state constitution or state statutes.
However, Lousin notes that this situation is without precedent. No office holder has passed away right at the end of a governor’s term before, so there may be some maneuvering that could be done. There is no 100 percent, clear-cut procedure, here.
As for Rauner, he said today he wants short-time Governor Quinn to give Topinka’s job to Topinka’s Chief of Staff Nancy Kimme to “serve right now.”
Quinn has not responded to the request but noted today that the constitution and any court cases would guide anything he would do–a trite answer since there are no court cases nor does the constitution clearly address this situation.
Finally, there is still talk of a special election to replace the late Topinka. There isn’t any called for in the constitution of statutes, however, that does not mean that one won’t be called.
Regardless, Topinka has been ill for several years, certainly. She should never have run for a second term in the comptroller’s office.
One last thing, though, many talked about eliminating the Comptroller’s office. Topinka herself ran on that goal in 2010. This would be the ideal time to do that!