The battle over the "Comptroller" gig—which oversees the state's finances and acts in the capacity of an accountant-in-chief—pits Republican incumbent Judy Baar Topinka against Democratic challenger Sheila Simon.
Though it is Simon's to lose—ousting a political stalwart like JBT is no easy feat in any respect—the unsurprisingly one-sided race is not without entertainment value. And the daughter of the late, legendary Paul Simon is going down swinging.
A Republican heavyweight and 34-year veteran of state politics, Topinka previously served as state treasurer from 1995-2007. She unsuccessfully ran for Illinois governor in 2006, losing to disgraced Democrat Rod Blagojevich. (Karma is a bleep.) Topinka launched a comeback in 2010, when she was elected comptroller with 52.9 percent of the vote above three other candidates. Known for her candor and outsized personality, JBT recently sparked a mini-scandal when she was overheard on a hot mic asking Gov. Pat Quinn about a job for her son in an apparent public display of patronage.
Simon instantly pounced on the clout controversy in a bid to paint Topinka as a career politician well acquainted with Illinois' history of political favor-trading. (Defending her actions, JBT expertly played the grandma card.) The current state Lieutenant Governor, Simon was handpicked by Quinn to be his running mate in 2010's gubernatorial election; four years later, the Democratic incumbent chose Paul Vallas as his prospective LG, overlooking Simon. She previously served on the city council in downstate Carbondale and did a stint as an Assistant State's Attorney in Jackson County.
Simon, lags behind Topinka by a whopping 33 percentage points, according to a recent Chicago Sun-Times/We Ask America poll. Conducted in September, the poll showed Topinka leading Simon 55-32 ahead of November's election. "While no one understands what the comptroller does, they view Judy as a competent and as someone who doesn’t fit the cookie-cutter mold of politicians," We Ask America COO Gregg Durham, who once served as Topinka's press secretary, told the Sun-Times. "It also doesn’t help Simon that she's from 'Forgotonia.' Eighty percent of the vote lies north of her."
If she hasn't learned her lesson by now, Topinka, prone to foot-in-mouth disease, could be felled by another hot mic gaffe, rendering Simon the defacto state comptroller. That's a fantastical long shot at this point. And JPT is pretty much protected by her name recognition, experience and charismatic personality.