Endorsement: Mendoza for Illinois comptroller

This endorsement is a consensus opinion of the Daily Herald Editorial Board.

Recommending Susana A. Mendoza for another term as Illinois comptroller is one of the easier political endorsement decisions we will make this year.

When Mendoza was elected to the comptroller's position in November 2016, she had big shoes to fill. In a little over one term on the job, Republican Judy Baar Topinka had transformed the little-known office into a model of transparency and awareness of both the specific bill-paying duties of the comptroller and also the budget challenges facing the state as a whole. But Topinka died in office in 2014 shortly after her second term began, and voters chose Democrat Mendoza two years later to complete her term. Mendoza was reelected in a full term in 2018.

In her six years in office, Mendoza has expanded on the transparency Topinka set in motion, adding at least three significant legislative advances of her own. Nor have her legislative activities been limited to just making the public aware of what's happening with the state's money. She successfully fought an attempt from legislators to use the courts to claw back what could have become millions of dollars in raises they had voted to forgo, and she argued this spring for repeal of a 1993 law that was intended to encourage prompt payment to state vendors but could be manipulated to produce costly high-interest payments to private investors.

The comptroller's job was greatly eased by the federal COVID-19 rescue plan that provided a much-needed jolt to the state's coffers, vastly speeding up efforts to whittle down a once-$16.7 billion payments backlog. But through prudent management and resourceful thinking, Mendoza already was helping make progress against the backlog, which is now down to $2 billion.

Along the way, she has also modernized and streamlined the office — to the point that she boasts she's able now to keep the lateness of unpaid bills to just 11 days with a smaller staff than her predecessor and a 10% smaller budget.

Mendoza is challenged by an earnest, well-meaning Republican in Shannon Teresi, the McHenry County auditor from Crystal Lake. Teresi's financial background offers some legitimate qualification for the comptroller's position, but her campaign's reliance on familiar tropes about irresponsible spending by state lawmakers has little application to the comptroller's office, and her calls for greater independence and more sensitivity to taxpayers' interests ring hollow against the incumbent's activities on precisely those issues.

Mendoza's record, her previous experience as a Chicago city clerk and Illinois state legislator and her seemingly boundless energy make her an exceptional fit for state comptroller. She easily wins our endorsement.

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