Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon is running to unseat Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka this November—and the outlook does not look good.
Simon, Democratic daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, lags behind Topinka—a Republican heavyweight and 34-year veteran of state politics—by a whopping 33 percentage points in a new poll from the Chicago Sun-Times and We Ask America.
The phone survey of 1,071 likely voters, conducted last Wednesday with a 3.1 point margin of error, shows Topinka leading Simon 55-32. Six percent of poll-takers supported Libertarian comptroller candidate Julie Fox, and 8 percent said they were undecided.
"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, tells the Sun-Times. "It also doesn’t help Simon that she's from 'Forgotonia.' Eighty percent of the vote lies north of her."
Let's be real: Did Simon honestly have a chance? It would always be an uphill battle to upstage Topinka, a colorful character with long political history here in the Land of Lincoln, given the triple threat of her charisma, experience and incumbency advantage.
Back in July, Simon took a swipe at Topinka when the former state treasurer—not realizing her mic was still on—was heard asking Gov. Pat Quinn about a job for her son in an apparent public display of patronage. (Nevermind the irony that Simon is the offspring of an esteemed Illinois politician and the connection most certainly helped get her on the 2010 ballot as Quinn's lieutenant governor.)
"The comptroller recalls mentioning that her son just completed 20 years of service in the military, that he has multiple degrees, including his J.D., and is interested in returning to Illinois, preferably southern Illinois," Topinka's press rep said at the time. "It was no different than a million other conversations she’s had about her son in the last few months. Like any mom and grandma, she would like to have her family closer to home."
The grandma card! Shameless. (We're on to you, Judy. You too, Pat Quinn.)
Simon's campaign dismisses the Sun-Times/We Ask America results, saying: "Our own internal polling shows a much closer race, one that will be won by directly communicating with voters and discussing Sheila’s plan to bring transparency and accountability to state and local spending."
Check out the survey's stats on the statewide races for attorney general (Democratic incumbent Lisa Madigan leads GOP nominee Paul Schrimpf 53-32), secretary of state (Jesse White's pretty much a lock) and treasurer (Republican Tom Cross out-polls Democrat Michael Frerichs).
And in case you don't know what the heck a comptroller does, and you would not be alone, here's a handy explainer. In short, a comptroller oversees the state's finances and acts in the capacity of an accountant-in-chief. That still does not make sense of the fact that comptroller is pronounced controller.