Lincolnshire's Munger to replace Topinka
In one of the first big decisions of his upcoming administration, Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner picked Lincolnshire Republican and former marketing executive Leslie Munger to succeed the late Judy Baar Topinka as Illinois comptroller.
Munger lost a hotly contested bid for Illinois House in November to Democratic state Rep. Carol Sente of Vernon Hills in a campaign where her views on the state's finances often aligned with the next governor's.
"I am deeply honored to become Illinois' next comptroller and humbly look forward to serving all the people of Illinois," Munger said in a statement. "I'll be a guardian of their money and a watchdog for Illinois' finances."
She will join Rauner on a media tour of the state Saturday, Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf said.
The move could set Munger up to take the office Jan. 12, the day Topinka would have been sworn in. However, Topinka, 70, a longtime state officeholder and former Republican candidate for governor, suffered a stroke and died last month.
Rauner wants Munger's appointment to be for a full four-year term, but lawmakers are set to meet Thursday to consider whether a special election should be held for the post in 2016.
"No one can ever replace Judy Baar Topinka, but Leslie is the perfect candidate to continue building on Judy's legacy," Rauner said in a statement.
Both Munger and Rauner say they support merging the office with Illinois treasurer, potentially saving the state millions of dollars per year.
But that move is up to neither of them. Lawmakers would have to vote to amend the Illinois Constitution, and voters would have to approve after that.
"That's what Judy wanted, and the people deserve the opportunity to vote on it," Munger said. "I would look forward to helping eliminate the very office to which I was appointed."
In her race for Illinois House Munger, 58, said she supports term limits and would have refused a state-paid pension had she been elected state representative. She supported the state's income tax hike dropping last week, too, and was backed by the political committee led by former talk-show host Dan Proft.
Munger is married and has two sons. She is a 1982 graduate of Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management where she earned her M.B.A. In 2004, Munger was named Lincolnshire Citizen of the Year for her volunteer work with Lincolnshire-Prarie View District 103.
The state's comptroller is in charge of managing the state's cash flow, writing checks to the people Illinois does business with. Illinois has a backlog of unpaid bills, so the comptroller's office has to decide in what order the bills get paid.
Gov. Pat Quinn appointed Jerry Stermer, his former budget director and chief of staff, to head the comptroller's office until Rauner takes office and appoints a replacement.
• Daily Herald Staff Writer Erin Hegarty contributed to this story.