Many of Illinois' top politicians will pay their respects to the late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka at a memorial service today (Wed., Dec. 17). Topinka died last week at the age of 70, shortly after having a stroke. Even as she's being mourned, political jockeying is underway to determine who'll next take her job.
Topinka passed away a month before she was to be sworn into her next term as Comptroller -- the position in state government responsible for paying the bills.
It's separate from the duties of Treasurer, who is charged with investing Illinois' money. Over the years, there have been attempts to merge the two offices.
Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner says he supports going that route ... eventually.
"I think it's a mistake to get caught up in fighting about that now. There's a process in place. We should honor that process," he said.
There are questions about what to do next, though.
The Attorney General says Gov. Pat Quinn should appoint someone for the next several weeks, but once Rauner takes over he can appoint someone new. But the Attorney General says then a special election should happen in 2016.
"There's no reason that should only have to be a four-year term. That's a four-year term. There's no reason that we see why it should be anything other than that," Rauner said.
Rauner's spokesman had previously been quoted calling a special election "problematic" and suggesting it was out of line with the constitution.
Rauner is one of the politicians scheduled to speak at Topinka's memorial service, which is being held at a union hall in suburban Countryside. He calls Topinka a "dear friend" and a role model, and says he has tried to avoid fighting about a succession plan.
Gov. Quinn is also scheduled to make remarks at the service.
In many ways, it's a partisan issue. Democrats control much of state government. Rauner and Topinka were the only Republicans to win statewide office in November.