2016 Special Election Chances Rise With Speaker's Support

Jan 7, 2015

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner's choice for comptroller, Leslie Munger, would have a two-year appointment, should legislation pass to set a special election in 2016.
Credit Munger '14 Campaign Website http://votemunger.com/about-leslie/

Chances the state will hold a special election for comptroller in 20-16 have improved, now that the Illinois House Speaker has signaled his support. Lawmakers will be back in Springfield for special session Thurs., Jan 8 to vote on it.

Speaker Michael Madigan's spokesman, Steve Brown, says Madigan will support giving voters a say, instead of allowing an appointee to take over long-term. Brown had previously only said that Madigan believed the future of the comptroller's office was a matter to be settled by the executive branch.

"This was all precipitated by the … sad passing, of Comptroller Judy BaarTopinka, before sworn in for the term she won last November," Brown said.

As it stands now, Illinois law permits a governor to make an appointment to fill vacancies in constitutional offices.

That would allow Governor-elect Bruce Rauner's pick for comptroller, businesswoman Leslie Munger, to hold the office for four years.

But if the legislation introduced by Senate President John Cullerton this week becomes law, Munger's appointment would only last two years. Then, in 2016, voters would weigh in on who should be comptroller. Brown says he's hopeful the measure will pass, then immediately go to Governor Pat Quinn for his signature.

Quinn supports the plan; on Monday he'll be replaced by Rauner, who has dismissed the concept of a special election.

To get it done, Madigan and Cullerton have called a second special session for Thursday. Gov. Quinn initially called legislators into one, but his proclamation only called for the General Assembly to take up a '16 special election for comptroller. Because Illinois law requires a narrow focus for special sessions -- the General Assembly can only deal with the matter the session was specifically called for -- the legisalative leaders have used their power to call another, nearly simultaneous special session, during which lawmakers will be able to debate more broadly with how to deal with vacancies created in statewide offices.

The bill proposed by Cullerton isn't limited to comptroller; it says that anytime someone is appointed to fill out an attorney general, secretary of state, comptroller or treasurer's term longer than 28 months, an election is to be held.