Rauner, experts speculate on filling comptroller post

 
 
Updated 12/10/2014 10:14 PM

mriopell@dailyherald.com

Gov. Pat Quinn urged patience in response to questions about the replacement of Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, who died Wednesday.

 

The Illinois Constitution says the governor must appoint someone to fill the role. The Illinois comptroller signs checks for the state's payments.

"I think it is important to mourn the loss of a great public servant, and I think that really is what we should do today," he said.

Quinn said he'll follow laws and court decisions when eventually moving forward with an appointment.

"I think that discussion should be postponed for later on," he said.

Though Topinka was just re-elected, her current term was set to end in January, so it's possible a Quinn appointee would serve only until then.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office is looking into what happens in January, given the state will have a new governor in Republican Bruce Rauner for the next term. Madigan's office hasn't given a definitive answer yet.

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Rauner agreed Wednesday that it was early to talk about a successor for a new term but urged Quinn to appoint Topinka Chief of Staff Nancy Kimme to the post because she knows the system well.

She is also member of Rauner's transition team.

"We should have continuity very quickly because the people of the state deserve service," Rauner said. "Nancy Kimme is her senior person who knows the system. She should step in and serve right now and then when things are clearer and settle we can talk about a permanent person to serve out Judy's four years."

Rauner said he believed he had the power to name a permanent replacement. Topinka would have been the only other Republican constitutional office holder to serve with Rauner and Lt. Gov.-elect Evelyn Sanguinetti.

Kimme, who worked on Topinka's 2006 gubernatorial campaign, declined to comment.

Constitutional experts say the situation is unprecedented and the uncertainty has led to rampant speculation about what happens next even as Illinois mourns Topinka's death.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

State law says the governor's appointee shall serve as a constitutional officer "until the elected officer qualifies or until a successor is elected and qualified" which some political experts suggested left the door open for a special election.

Others, like Richard Winkel with the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs, said the law suggests that the duty of naming the remainder of Topinka's term is Quinn's and the full-term appointment is up to Rauner.

"There's two vacancies going here," said Winkel, a former state senator.

Illinois Attorney General spokeswoman Maura Possley would only say Quinn has the authority to appoint a successor.

"We are further researching questions regarding the length of the appointment and anything else," she said.

And lawmakers could still meet to clarify the law.

• The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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