State comptroller dies at 70


Stephanie Markham, News Editor

Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, who was elected in November to serve a second four-year term, died Wednesday morning at the age of 70 due to complications with a stroke, according to the Chicago Tribune.

In addition to serving three terms as Illinois treasurer from 1995 to 2007, Topinka served in the state’s House of Representatives from 1980 to 1984, then served 10 years in the Senate.

Former chair of the Illinois Republican Party, Topinka was the first woman from her party to be nominated for governor in the state when she challenged incumbent Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2006.

She received a bachelor’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 1966 and went on to work as a reporter and editor along with starting a public relations business.

Richard Wandling, chair of the political science department, said Topinka’s death is a major loss to the state.

“She had a distinguished career in public service, and she was widely respected regardless of party divisions,” he said.

Topinka was known for being fiscally conservative, but moderate to liberal on social issues such as abortion rights and gay marriage.

Wandling said Topinka had the ability to reach out to others and was an independent thinker.

“As comptroller, everyone had full confidence that our fiscal situation was being managed well,” he said.

Wandling said he believes the state would have been a lot better off if Topinka had won the governor’s race in 2006, as he said Illinois is still paying the price for Blagojevich’s second term.

He said Topinka was a strong candidate who would fit in with other successful moderate Republicans like former Gov. Jim Edgar.

He said he hopes the modern centrist tradition will continue after Topinka with future generations.

“She was a very colorful politician, and definitely a free spirit,” Wandling said.

While the treasurer is in charge of investing funds for the state, the comptroller signs off on checks, monitors the state’s financial situation, and provides reports and data to the legislature, Wandling said.

He said the best source of information for the financial situation of the state is the comptroller’s office.

“Despite Illinois having lackluster governors, to say the least, many of them sent to prison, we have a good track record of high quality comptrollers, regardless of political party,” Wandling said. “We have been well served, and Judy Baar Topinka is part of that legacy.”

Stephanie Markham can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]