She's Baack

"Everything I've said ... has come to pass"

Judy Baar Topinka, once the main face of the Illinois Republican Party, is staging a political comeback after being defeated in the 2006 governor's race by the since-indicted Rod Blagojevich.

But she's not setting her sights on the top of the 2010 Republican ticket and mounting an "I-told-you-so" campaign this time. Instead, the former three-term state treasurer sees the bottom of the ticket as the place to reinvigorate her political career.

Topinka is circulating voter petitions to get on the Feb. 2 ballot as a candidate for state comptroller, the post that Democrat Dan Hynes will vacate to campaign against Gov. Quinn in his party's gubernatorial primary.

With the soreness of her 2006 loss having eased, Topinka, 65, comes at this election having warned voters -- long before his ouster from office and indictment -- that Blagojevich was a political time bomb waiting to explode.

"The public has realized they got bamboozled by this guy," Topinka said in an interview. "I don't need to say anything about that. Everything I've said during the campaign has come to pass.

"I think the state needs a mooring because there is a floating and a drift . . . I'm a good anchor."

After never losing an election during two terms in the state Senate and three rounds as treasurer, Topinka lost to Blagojevich by more than 367,000 votes in 2006. She drew 1.36 million votes in that race.

Topinka hasn't been out of the limelight entirely. In 2007, she was appointed to a seat on the Regional Transportation Authority board. She's a regular guest on radio talk shows and does occasional commentary on WTTW-Channel 11's "Chicago Tonight."

"I've got too much energy. I can't sit too long," said Topinka, who is known for her dyed red hair and colorful mannerisms. "I'd like to put that energy to work."

So far, two other Republican candidates have declared for comptroller: broadcaster William Kelly and Jim Dodge, an Orland Park village trustee who's on Metra's board.

Topinka said, "This is the right thing for me at this time."

Some Democrats, though, describe her as a symbol of an old-guard Republican Party still tainted by now-imprisoned former Gov. George Ryan.

"I was wondering if they'd find a Ryan to be on the ticket, too," said Steve Brown, a spokesman for state Democratic Party chairman and House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago).

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