Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon is finally looking at another office: comptroller, which is something you run for when you want to run for something else. But it’s one step at a time as Simon attempts to carry on her father’s political legacy. Simon had originally hoped to run for attorney general but is setting her sights lower now that Lisa Madigan has announced she is running for re-election.
Simon will begin the race as an underdog to Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. A moderate suburban woman from Riverside, Topinka is one of the more popular Republicans in Illinois. As state treasurer, Topinka was the only Republican statewide official to survive the 2002 Democratic wave.
After losing to Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2006, she was elected comptroller four years later, by voters obviously contrite about their bad judgment. On “Celebrity Apprentice,” Patti Blagojevich described Topinka as a “kooky aunt.” Topinka took offense, but there was some affection in that remark.
Capitol Fax has already polled
a Topinka-Simon match-up. (Who else but Capitol Fax would have polled that already?) Here are the results:
According to the survey, Topinka leads Democratic Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon 45-38. A total of 24 percent of the calls were made to cell phones.
Simon will likely run for attorney general if Lisa Madigan steps up to run for governor, but she has said she is eyeing the comptroller’s race as well. Simon is the highest profile Democrat to consider a bid against Topinka, so this may be a high water mark for the Democrats. Topinka won her last race by 13 points in a very good year for the GOP.
Topinka leads among independents by 12 big and important points. Her lead also pretty much matches Lisa Madigan’s lead over Dan Rutherford and Aaron Schock in a somewhat recent Public Policy Polling survey. So, she’s doing quite well considering the serious headwinds. Topinka and Simon are essentially tied among women, but Topinka has a 53-34 lead among men.
The comptroller’s office was established in 1972 and has been a springboard position ever since. Six of its seven occupants have run for higher office: Michael J. Bakalis (governor); Roland Burris (attorney general); Dawn Clark Netsch (governor); Loleta Didrickson (U.S. Senate); Dan Hynes (U.S. Senate, governor); Topinka (governor, although before she became comptroller.) Only Burris was successful.
Simon would be the second Democrat to announce for comptroller. Will County Auditor Duffy Blackburn
is also in the race. Simon a lawyer, with no financial background, so running against an incumbent comptroller who served two terms as treasurer may be a difficult sell. Even if Simon gets to the comptroller’s office, that may be as far as she gets.