Newly appointed state Rep. Kent Gaffney said the possibility of succeeding seven-term Mark Beaubien was something Beaubien wanted to discuss with him in detail someday.
But he never imagined it would happen under such circumstances.
The 44-year-old Gaffney, a longtime aide to Beaubien who lives in Barrington, was chosen to replace the late Barrington Hills Republican by party leaders from Lake, McHenry and Cook counties Thursday night from among more than a dozen applicants.
Gaffney was director of appropriations for the Illinois House and had worked closely with Beaubien -- largely on budget issues -- for more than a decade.
"I used to think you'd have to be crazy to be one of these guys," Gaffney said of the representatives he worked with. "But as a staffer, you sometimes find yourself understanding the issues better than some of the legislators because you're explaining them to them."
He said Beaubien picked up on their shared understanding of budget issues, and began to talk in recent years about how he couldn't imagine a better person to succeed him.
Gaffney always told him that was a conversation for the future.
But only months after suffering a bout of pneumonia, the 68-year-old Beaubien died June 4. County leaders had only 30 days to name a replacement.
Beaubien's widow, Dee, said she is pleased that his appointed successor is someone she believes has her husband's disciplined approach to budgeting and moderate stances on social issues.
"He always said Kent would be a great replacement for him because he was a moderate like Mark," Dee Beaubien said. "Both of them work both sides of the aisle. They're very collaborative."
Gaffney said whether he's a moderate depends on how one defines moderate. But he does believe government should stay out of what ought to be citizens' personal choices about their lives.
Dee Beaubien believes those who voted for her late husband should share her satisfaction about Gaffney.
"Let's not forget the voters," she said. "Don't disenfranchise them by picking someone who was not like Mark."
Nevertheless, she believes some in the Lake County Republican contingent were hoping for someone more conservative on social issues.
Republican state Sen. Dan Duffy of Lake Barrington was among those disappointed by Gaffney's appointment.
"In typical Illinois fashion, the job went to a political insider," Duffy said in a statement. "Even though many good candidates with outstanding real-world experience applied for the position, a House Republican staffer was handed the job."
But Lake County GOP Chair Bob Cook said the appointment was the result of the right candidate rising to the top of a good field of choices in a very open process. He said "conservative" and "moderate" labels played no role in the selection process.
"We had a lot of good people," Cook said. "They were all very good Republicans. I think you pick a really good person and let them do their job."
The list of applicants included Barrington Village President Karen Darch, Barrington Unit District 220 school board Member Nick Sauer, Wauconda Township GOP Chair Glenda Swanson and Grayslake Elementary District 46 board member Michael Carbone.
Dee Beaubien said Gaffney may not be widely known in the area -- having moved to Barrington from his native Springfield only a few years ago -- but felt he would find general support among Republicans, as her husband did, for his budgeting skills.
"All things considered, it worked out well," Dee Beaubien said of the succession process. "Of course, I would have preferred that Mark was still here."