WBEZ | Judy Baar Topinka http://www.wbez.org/tags/judy-baar-topinka Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Case over lawmaker pay could be 'landmark' http://www.wbez.org/news/case-over-lawmaker-pay-could-be-landmark-108299 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP917659587334.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>CHICAGO &mdash; Gov. Pat Quinn says a lawsuit over his decision to suspend lawmaker pay for failing to act on the state pension crisis will be a &quot;landmark&quot; case.</p><p>Quinn attended a court hearing Tuesday involving a lawsuit filed by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton to force Quinn and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka to issue paychecks.</p><p>A Cook County Circuit Court judge set oral arguments for Sept. 18.</p><p>Last month, Quinn cut $13.8 million for legislators&#39; pay from the state budget after threatening consequences if they didn&#39;t act on pensions.</p><p>The lawsuit asks the court to decide if Quinn&#39;s line-item veto fully eliminated lawmakers&#39; salaries. If the court upholds Quinn&#39;s amendatory veto, plaintiffs want the court to declare Quinn&#39;s action unconstitutional.</p><p>Quinn says his move is constitutional.<br />&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 06 Aug 2013 11:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/case-over-lawmaker-pay-could-be-landmark-108299 Topinka says she must cancel lawmakers’ paychecks - for now http://www.wbez.org/news/topinka-says-she-must-cancel-lawmakers%E2%80%99-paychecks-now-108197 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/topinka.JPG" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Illinois lawmakers will not be getting their paychecks for the month of August. Illinois&rsquo; comptroller, Judy Baar Topinka, who issues checks for state employees, said Thursday she will not send them out, per Gov. Pat Quinn&rsquo;s veto earlier this month.</p><p dir="ltr">Quinn said neither he nor lawmakers should receive paychecks until the state addresses its $100 billion pension debt and agrees on a compromise to restructure state employees&rsquo; retirement benefits.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We tried to get as much legal guidance on this as possible so that we knew we would be doing the right thing and following the law exactly and not getting tripped up,&rdquo; Topinka said at a news conference Thursday.</p><p dir="ltr">Topinka said there are conflicting legal opinions between her staff, the governor&rsquo;s legal team and the Attorney General&rsquo;s office. But the consensus is that if there is no money appropriated for legislators and the governor, then she can&rsquo;t legally send out the checks. Topinka was critical of the governor&rsquo;s idea to stop the paychecks, but said the best way to resolve the matter is either court action or for the legislature to override the governor&rsquo;s veto of their pay.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;This is no way to run a government,&rdquo; Topinka said. &ldquo;Threats, blackmail and inertia may good theater, but it makes us look ridiculous and it takes away from our ability to get things done.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Lawmakers typically receive their paychecks at the beginning of each month. August&rsquo;s check is the first skipped check for lawmakers since the governor took action.</p><p dir="ltr">Meantime, after the legislature adjourned without agreeing on a pension compromise in May, a committee of five state representatives and five state senators was formed to try to find a new pension reform plan that could get the support of all parties involved.</p><p dir="ltr">They continue to meet in private, but they have not issued a timeframe for when a proposal may be released. Some members of the committee have criticized Quinn for trying to rush the process while they were waiting to find out how different plans and how much money each could save the state.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 26 Jul 2013 08:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/topinka-says-she-must-cancel-lawmakers%E2%80%99-paychecks-now-108197 Is Illinois really in a financial mess? New state website makes the case http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-really-financial-mess-new-state-website-makes-case-97849 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/RS5200_AP060608042465_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois taxpayers who want a first-hand look at how the state spends money can now get their fix, or so says Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. On Monday she launched <a href="http://ledger.illinoiscomptroller.com/" target="_blank">The Ledger</a>, a comprehensive online financial database that she says sets a new standard for transparency.</p><p>“Beyond providing the day’s balances and transactions, the site allows taxpayers to inspect state revenues, expenses, contracts and salaries, all without having to move from their home computer,” Topinka said.</p><p>Some of the information taxpayers can access include:</p><ul><li>Daily general funds balances and bond rating information;</li><li>Unpaid bill totals on file at the state comptroller’s office;</li><li>A state contract database providing agreement descriptions, with an option to obtain the document itself;</li><li>A salary database detailing payments to all state employees;</li><li>Revenue and expense database containing all transactions;</li><li>All state financial reports;</li><li>Automatically-generated Freedom of Information Act requests for additional information.</li></ul><p>Topinka hopes the new set of online tools will provide more than just financial data.</p><p>“The object of the exercise is to make everything that we know of in the comptroller’s office public. If we know it, you’ll know it,” Topinka said. “We think it’s the only way we’re going to get the state back on a footing here on integrity and undercut some of this corruption that’s gone on and horseplay. So when you see it, it’ll be for real.”</p></p> Mon, 02 Apr 2012 16:24:57 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-really-financial-mess-new-state-website-makes-case-97849 Voting for Blago http://www.wbez.org/blog/achy-obejas/2011-12-09/voting-blago-94777 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-December/2011-12-09/AP03011205445.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-09/AP03011205445.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 300px; height: 203px;" title="(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)"><em>How could you people elect Rod Blagojevich?</em></p><p>That was the question from an out of state friend reading about Illinois’ latest embarrassment: our seventh governor to go to jail for corruption, and the second in a row.</p><p>In hindsight, he seems so obviously the wrong choice: so cocky, such a lightweight. His early career depended almost entirely on Ald. Dick Mell, his Dem machine pol father-in-law; he had a congressional tenure with not a single important legislative achievement; and he holds the distinction of being the only Illinois Democrat who voted in favor of war with Iraq in 2002.</p><p>But if Mell was instrumental in his forward movement, I’m going to suggest there was another man almost as important to Blago’s gubernatorial tenure.</p><p>His name? Rolando Cruz.</p><p>You remember him: the 20 year-old gang member who stupidly thought he could make up a story in order to get the reward offered for info on 10 year-old Jeanine Nicarico’s rape and murder and wound up losing more than a decade of his own life in jail, falsely accused of the crime.</p><p>In spite of prosecutorial lies, and even exculpatory DNA evidence, DuPage prosecutors and law enforcement became obsessed with pinning the crime on Cruz and a pair of his friends. But by the time Blago ran for governor in 2002, Cruz had already won a civil suit against his accusers and was on his way to a full pardon from then Governor George Ryan.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-09/AP95110901156.jpg" title="Cruz, right, was freed after spending 12 years on death row for a murder he didn't commit. (AP/Beth A. Keiser)" width="512" height="415"></p><p>In 2002, Blago had won the Democratic primary against former schools czar Paul Vallas and egomaniac Roland Burris (oh the ironies!), and who did he face in the general election? Republican Jim Ryan, the former Illinois attorney general who had prosecuted Cruz.</p><p>By the time of the election, Jim Ryan was trying to have it both ways -- committed to what he had done, yet refusing to take a stand on Cruz’s guilt or innocence as the pardon played out.</p><p>The Cruz case was no small detail. It dominated<a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2002-10-06/news/0210060377_1_hernandez-appeal-prosecutions-jeanine-nicarico"> headlines, debates</a>. It even prompted the Nicarico family to send a <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2002-10-01/news/0210010146_1_nicaricos-prosecution-rolando-cruz">letter</a> to the <em>Tribune </em>asking Jim Ryan to man up and say in public what he continued to tell them in private: that he believed Cruz was involved.</p><p>Blago could not have asked for a better candidate to run against.</p><p>Jim Ryan looked <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2002-09-29/news/0209290332_1_george-ryan-cook-county-case">overzealous, incapable of admitting a mistake, willing to do anything</a> -- even send innocent men to die -- in order to get ahead politically.&nbsp;</p><p>And, perhaps not surprisingly, when Blago rolled up the winning votes, many came from Latino and African-American communities where Jim Ryan struck the most fear.</p><p>And in 2006?</p><p>By then, Blago was already under investigation for corruption by Illinois attorney general Lisa Madigan. Edwin Eisendrath ran against him in the primary but he had no chance: Blagojevich was backed by the entire Dem establishment (except Madigan), including then Senator Barack Obama -- in spite of the fact that by then the governor was feuding with practically every single Democrat in Illinois. (An aside: everybody in the president’s inner circle, with the single exception of David Axelrod, who never supported Blago, backed Blagojevich both times.)</p><p>But in 2006, it looked like Blago would get a real challenger: Judy Baar Topinka, a RINO if there ever was one. She was personally popular, had a bunch of progressive positions, and though she had done some ethically questionable things, she wasn’t under investigation and seemed far cleaner than Blago by this point.</p><p>But then she named DuPage County state’s attorney Joe Birkett, a Jim Ryan lieutenant and <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2002-09-24/news/0209240301_1_capital-case-attorney-tragedy-for-political-gain">another of the Cruz innocence deniers</a>, to her ticket and that eliminated Baar Topinka for a whole lot of people.</p><p>How disgusted were voters in 2006 with both Blago and the GOP ticket?</p><p>Rich Whitney, the Green Party candidate, got an impressive 10+ percent of the votes -- a position that allowed the Greens to become <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illinois_Green_Party">one of three legally established parties</a> in the state.</p><p>So how could we elect a doofus like Rod Blagojevich?</p><p>We were, believe it or not, voting for the lesser evil -- both times.</p></p> Fri, 09 Dec 2011 19:54:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/achy-obejas/2011-12-09/voting-blago-94777 Plan to merge Illinois treasurer and comptroller stalled in legislature http://www.wbez.org/story/plan-merge-illinois-treasurer-and-comptroller-stalled-legislature-92018 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-15/AP110818030147.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The plan to merge the Illinois treasurer and comptroller's office is stuck in the state House of Representatives. Treasurer Dan Rutherford and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, both Republicans, say combining their offices will save millions of dollars. Topinka blamed Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan for stalling the plan.</p><p>"There are ways to save money, which in this case are perfectly harmless, they wouldn't affect anybody's pocketbook, but we would have the extra 12 million," Topinka said. "That would sure help."</p><p>Madigan's spokesman says the proposal needs more safeguards. Illinois used to have one fiscal office, the state auditor, but a scandal in the 1950's caused constitutional drafters to split the office to prevent future problems.</p></p> Thu, 15 Sep 2011 12:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/plan-merge-illinois-treasurer-and-comptroller-stalled-legislature-92018 Politicians react to Blagojevich verdict http://www.wbez.org/story/politicians-react-blagojevich-verdict-88411 <p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Pat Brady:</strong></p><p><strong>Illinois Republican Party Chairman</strong></p><p>“I'm glad that the verdict is finally in on Rod Blagojevich. However this closes only one chapter of Democrat corruption in Illinois. Illinois Democratic politicians who now try everything they can to hide their past support of Rod Blagojevich should look themselves in the mirror and remind themselves that little has changed since the day Blagojevich was arrested.</p><p>“Our current governor (Pat Quinn) has appointed lame duck legislators to high paid positions after they changed their views and voted for late night tax hikes. The Speaker of the Illinois House (and state Democratic Party Chairman Mike Madigan) is partner in a law firm that has reaped millions in appealing tax assessments in a relationship that even Forrest Claypool (now a member of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Administration) said ‘has caused our taxes to go up and the level of faith in government to go down.’”</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>John Cullerton:</strong></p><p><strong>Statement from Illinois Senate President John Cullerton:</strong></p><p>"Once again, the former governor's pattern of dishonesty has been confirmed. I thank the jury for its public service. Just as it was sad but necessary for the Senate to remove him from office, today is another sad event for Illinois. I would hope that this verdict would further allow us as a state to move on and ahead."</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>David Morrison: </strong></p><p><strong>Deputy Director, Illinois Campaign for Political Reform </strong></p><p>“The jury today has ratified the sense of millions of Illinoisans, that Rod Blagojevich was a pox on Illinois' political system. His conviction also serves as a warning that no one is above the law and that anyone today thinking of abusing the public trust for their private benefit should consider the very real consequences. The jury today made clear that criminal acts are not "just politics." Blagojevich, and many of his advisors and staff, are facing serious prison time, financial penalties, and separation from their families and friends.</p><p>“Illinois has taken great strides to ensure that the next scandal will not follow the&nbsp;Blagojevich blueprint. Today's laws make it much harder to commit yesterday's actions. But preventing tomorrow's scandals require more vigilance. Voters must accountability from candidates. Officeholders must stand ready to call out their wavering colleagues. Staffers must understand the risks they take when they follow criminal orders. Reform is possible, one step at a time, and Illinois has a long road ahead.”</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Dan Rutherford: </strong></p><p><strong>Illinois State Treasurer</strong></p><p>“The guilty verdict against former Governor Rod Blagojevich closes a long, embarrassing chapter for the citizens of Illinois. He deserves everything he’s going to get.”</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Judy Baar Topinka:</strong></p><p><strong>Illinois Comptroller </strong></p><p>"I am heartened by the Jury's verdict against Rod Blagojevich, and pleased to see justice after many months of waiting. But make no mistake: this is nothing to celebrate. Through his unconscionable behavior and reckless leadership, Blagojevich inflicted damage on Illinois that will take years, if not generations, to repair. He broke the public trust and mismanaged dollars with a zeal that was unique even in our storied state.</p><p>"I find his behavior reprehensible and am personally pleased to see him held responsible. But more important, I hope that today's verdict delivers a reminder that elected leaders serve the public, not the other way around - and they will be held accountable, even if it takes a while.</p><p>“While I look forward to turning the page on Blagojevich, I hope that the lessons learned from his prosecution live on. Ironically, it would prove to be his greatest contribution to our state."</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Adam Kinzinger:</strong></p><p><strong>Republican U.S. Representative</strong></p><p>“Rod Blagojevich never seemed to understand the difference between serving the public and serving his personal self interests. The evidence presented and verdict confirms that he was found guilty of seventeen of the twenty counts including wire fraud, attempted extortion and attempting to sell President Obama's old Senate seat, but far worse, he abused and shattered public trust. The shame and national embarrassment Blagojevich cast onto our state has only created further financial bearing.&nbsp;</p><p>"I applaud the U.S. Attorney’s office for their hard work, dedication and effort to see to it that justice has somewhat been served.&nbsp; Unfortunately, Blagojevich's verdict and punishment will not restore statewide, much less nationwide certainty in Illinois.&nbsp; We must now move beyond Rod Blagojevich and turn our focus toward working together to rebuild Illinois.”</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Jeff Schoenberg:</strong></p><p><strong>Senator, 9th District, Assistant Majority Leader</strong></p><p>"With this guilty verdict, Illinois has now been shamed once again as its second consecutive chief executive has failed its citizens in the most fundamental way possible. We must all redouble our efforts to restore confidence and integrity to Illinois government."</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Dick Durbin:</strong></p><p><strong>Democratic U.S. Senator </strong></p><p>“I hope today’s verdict finally draws this sad and sordid chapter in Illinois history to a close.”</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Bill Brady:</strong></p><p><strong>State Senator, Bloomington</strong></p><p>“I believe our state will grow stronger as a result of the conviction of Rod Blagojevich today.&nbsp; Rod Blagojevich abused the office of Governor and made every attempt to capitalize on his public office for personal and political benefit.</p><p>“His overwhelming conviction today should serve as yet another reminder that public officials are in office to serve the public and not their own personal interests and ambitions.&nbsp; We have made some progress in ending pay-to-play politics in Illinois, but the decision today underscores the need for us in government to continue our work to earn the trust and confidence of our citizens.”</p></p> Mon, 27 Jun 2011 21:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/politicians-react-blagojevich-verdict-88411 Illinois Senate committee to debate combining Comptroller, Treasurer offices http://www.wbez.org/story/comptroller/illinois-senate-committee-debate-combining-comptroller-treasurer-offices <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/IMG_7188.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois legislators are preparing to debate a plan that would combine two elected offices into one. The proposal would change the state Constitution, combining the Treasurer's office and the Comptroller's office. Both deal with the finances of Illinois: the treasurer with investments and the comptroller is in charge of dispersing the state's money.</p><p>The new Republican Comptroller, Judy Baar Topinka, is on board with the plan. And so is the new Republican Treasurer, Dan Rutherford, who said he hasn't thought about which one of the two would be out of a job if the offices were combined.</p><p>&quot;That's not a Judy and Dan issue,&quot;&nbsp;Rutherford said. &quot;This is a bigger issue than it is for - it's about changing the government. If this gets down to that, we'll make that decision together when the time comes.&quot;</p><p>Rutherford said the merger would save the state $12 million a year and eliminate about 50 positions.</p><p>A state senate committee is scheduled to discuss the merger Wednesday. Two Democrats and two Republicans are sponsoring the legislation.<br />&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 14 Feb 2011 19:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/comptroller/illinois-senate-committee-debate-combining-comptroller-treasurer-offices Judy Baar Topinka steals inauguration show http://www.wbez.org/blog/justin-kaufmann/judy-baar-topinka-steals-inauguration-show <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Topinka.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img height="370" width="500" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-January/2011-01-10/Topinka.jpg" alt="" title="" /></p><p>I watched the Illinois inauguration today so you didn't have to. Seriously, you should thank me. When I took on the assignment, I thought it would be much more like a college graduation, with bands, balloons and semi-bawdy speech. Instead, it was like a school assembly, that went way past the bell.</p><p><strong>Here are a couple random observations from my two hour odyssey:&nbsp;</strong><br />&nbsp;</p><ul><li>Enough with the religion at the top of these inaugurations. First pledge, then prayer, then gospel choir? What next, three different faiths doing three short prayers??! YES! By my count, they had five prayers. Is this some sort of knock against those who want prayer out of schools and public places?&nbsp;Oh yeah? You don't like it? How bout we stick it to you then - with five prayers. How you like me now?&nbsp;</li></ul><ul><li>What is happening? What was the intro to Quinn? Some recorded thing?</li></ul><ul><li>Pat Quinn started his long speech talking about the Arizona shootings. He wants to end the violence and end the silence about the violence. An acknowledgment of the news story would be fine, but Quinn goes further to blame political in-fighting and rhetoric. Quinn is no stranger to talking about national issues when he really doesn't have a reason to (see NYC&nbsp;mosque). We have plenty of our own issues - get to those.</li></ul><ul><li>Quinn moves on to talk about how all we need is love. He quotes from the Bible. But instead of it being insightful, he gives the ole' St. Paul passage about love being patient, love being kind. Is he being inaugurated or is this his wedding?&nbsp;</li></ul><ul><li>Speaking of married, <a href="http://dailyherald.com/article/20110109/news/701109899/">Quinn is the first bachelor to be inaugurated in 61 years</a>. So instead of his lady, he talks about his Mom.</li></ul><ul><li>Best quote (when talking about the ups and downs of a lifetime of elections): One day a peacock, next day a feather duster.</li></ul><ul><li>Quinn threw some emotion into the equation when talking about his father, who has passed. It's part of being a leader - at least it's not just about the excitement of winning an election.</li></ul><ul><li>What's with all the kids on the stage? Everyone who won anything brought their toddler on stage with them. Fidget city! Is this how we are rolling?Is this why our state is so poor? Are politicians bringing their kids to work every day?</li></ul><ul><li>...And we believe in airports! Quinn then said we will see a new airport in the South Suburbs. News?&nbsp;</li></ul><ul><li>From what I could gather, Quinn's long speech was about three themes:&nbsp;Fairness, transportation and union welders.&nbsp; Can someone please produce these speeches? Audiences are done with the trite &quot;I met a voter&quot; speech. Just like in sports, do away with that play. Defenses have caught up to it. Try something new.</li></ul><ul><li>My second favorite quote:&nbsp;&quot;We honor all those who plow.&quot;</li></ul><p><br /><u><strong>Sheila Simon</strong></u><br />&nbsp;</p><ul><li>The Justice cut off Sheila Simon before she could finish puppeting back one of her lines. Does that make this inauguration un-binding?</li></ul><ul><li>Simon spoke of an essay contest that some Illinois children won to attend the inauguration. Poor kids. I'll bet they thought it was like I did - gowns and celebrities. Instead they got Sheila Simon reminding all their peers that they won an essay contest.&nbsp;</li></ul><p><strong><u>Lisa Madigan</u></strong><br />&nbsp;</p><ul><li>Lisa Madigan brings the whole family up for the swearing in, sans her Dad.</li></ul><ul><li>Madigan always sounds like she is forcing herself to talk like a politician. She seems like if she dropped the forced cadence, she would be pleasant to listen to. I'll bet she picked it up from a bad high school speech teacher.</li></ul><ul><li>Madigan:&nbsp;&quot;When child pornographers use technology to exchange horrific images, we use the same technology to catch them.&quot; Are we talking about e-mail here?&nbsp;FTP servers?</li></ul><ul><li>C'mon, get to Judy Baar!&nbsp;</li></ul><p><u><strong>Jesse White</strong></u></p><ul><li>First off, a little annoyed he wasn't in his red polo and gym shorts.</li></ul><ul><li>Did Jesse White and Justice Cunningham just do a little kiss on the old lips?&nbsp;Weird.</li></ul><ul><li>If I&nbsp;were Jesse White, I would have had my tumblers jump the Supreme Court justices when announced.</li></ul><ul><li>White said he banned political contributions from his employees. Does this include the Tumblers? Something tells me they are out selling candy bars for the cause...</li></ul><p>And now...</p><p><u><strong>Judy Baar Topinka</strong></u></p><ul><li>Of course, this speech doesn't disappoint. She is on-fire from the beginning. During the pledge, Topinka cracks wise during the oath. Awesome and completely illegal? Regardless, hilarious.&nbsp;</li></ul><ul><li>Judy knows how to start a speech.&nbsp;She came right up and gave a &quot;I'm back&quot; in her best Schwartzenegger to call back to her speech the day after the primary.</li></ul><ul><li>She then launches into a very sincere and heartfelt appreciation for her son who is serving in the military. He is in attendance, yet the politicians in the room decide against a robust applause and standing ovation, which sometimes happens and quite frankly, is what Quinn is all about - unless of course, it's someone from a different political party.</li></ul><ul><li>Judy then goes out of her way to salute the outgoing&nbsp;Democrat Dan Hynes, whom she gave a glowing endorsement. It was very classy and way more than just political rhetoric. She seemed to mean it.</li></ul><ul><li>Back to the jokes: &quot;People might say:&nbsp;Why is she running to take over a fiscally strapped state?&nbsp;They say, &quot;What is she thinking?&quot; Smile, look around the audience, smattering of laughter. She follows up with a &quot;um, yeah, okay - and finds her place in the script. Even when bombing, she shows character.&nbsp;</li></ul><ul><li>Judy Baar Topinka moved on to say that both parties were responsible for the financial mess in this state and stated emphatically, &quot;no more games, cut it out! Without being disagreeable!&nbsp;Okay?...We're going to be adults. And in Springfield, all the way across the board, we finally have adults.&quot;</li></ul><ul><li>She finished with this line:&nbsp;&quot;So we have to work together and fix the state. Because I'm not going away until we do.&quot;&nbsp;</li></ul><p>Judy Baar Topinka continues to be the best politician this state has to offer. She's charming, she speaks from the hip and she works, works and works.&nbsp;If she contributes to turning the state's financial woes around? Several Illinoisians might be looking for a way to go back in time and change their 2006 vote.</p></p> Mon, 10 Jan 2011 18:45:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/justin-kaufmann/judy-baar-topinka-steals-inauguration-show Wrapup: Dems lose big in Senate, House elections http://www.wbez.org/story/alexi-giannoulias/wrapup-dems-lose-big-senate-house-elections <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2010-November/2010-11-03/KIRK2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It was a huge election night for Republicans across the country. And in Illinois, it was a rebirth of sorts for a state GOP that practically fell into a shallow grave eight years ago.</p><p>Republicans in this state scored big wins in federal contests - especially - and made gains in state government. The race for that top office though, governor, remains unsettled.&nbsp;Incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn all but claimed victory. But Republican state Senator Bill Brady is not ready to give up.</p><p>Bill Brady got this far in the 2010 election thanks to 193 votes - 193 votes that separated him from his closest competitor in the Republican primary for governor way back in February. And after watching election results for hours Tuesday night showing yet another tight race, Brady came out to chat with his supporters just after midnight.<br /><br />BRADY: As some of you may have realized by now I have a penchant for close elections.<br /><br />Out of the more than 3-and-a-half million that were cast in Illinois, Brady trails Quinn by less than 10,000 votes. But Tuesday night in his home town of Bloomington, Brady was talking like a winner.<br /><br />BRADY: We are excited and optimistic, but we want to make sure every voter in the state of Illinois has a right to have their vote counted. And we're going to make sure that happens. And we're going to make sure that this process is done right.<br /><br />QUINN: We know there are more votes to be counted, but we're 10,933 ahead...<br /><br />About 45 minutes after Brady's speech, Quinn jogged on stage at his campaign party in a downtown Chicago hotel.<br /><br />QUINN: And I'd rather be ahead, than 10,933 behind.<br /><br />That number has narrowed a bit since, but the Quinn campaign Tuesday night was all smiles.<br /><br />The governor who came into office after his infamous former running mate was removed, and then endured roughly 21 months of turbulence and controversy, had climbed back into this race. Just a few weeks ago he trailed by double digits in some polls, but he's leading when it counts, with a chance for a full term of his own.<br /><br />QUINN: I know that there are votes out here, in Cook County, in other counties across the state. And so we want to make sure they're counted, counted fairly. But I think when all is said, we'll end up on top with the most votes, and a majority.<br /><br />Well, not quite a majority. Whoever wins will still be well short of 50-percent, because of votes that went for third party and independent candidates.<br /><br />But a victory is a victory, and the next governor - even if it's the old governor - gets the privilege of dealing with what could be a $15-billion budget deficit. That governor must work with a Democratic-controlled state House and Senate. Despite some gains by Republicans, they fell well short of taking control of either chamber.<br /><br />The GOP did win in some statewide constitutional offices. They've held none for four years, but now they have two. Former Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka returned to the political scene to capture the comptroller's office, and state Senator Dan Rutherford will be the new treasurer, an office left vacant by Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, who had U.S. Senate aspirations.<br /><br />GIANNOULIAS: Losing is not easy. Losing is not something you expect, which is probably why I didn't write a speech.<br /><br />Giannoulias lost to Republican Mark Kirk, a five-term member of the U.S. House.<br /><br />GIANNOULIAS: He made a promise to me that he will never forget who he's fighting for. I think he will make a good senator. I think he will make a strong senator. And - hang on, no, no, hey, no, no - he is our senator and he will help a lot of people.<br /><br />You can't blame Giannoulias' supporters for their strong opinions. This race was marked by nasty commercials - attacks - including labels like liar, and mob banker. But Kirk also got the post-election memo to be nice, generous even.<br /><br />KIRK: Alexi and I, during this campaign, we discussed having a beer when this is all over. And so I will give this invitation: Alexi, if you still want that beer, I'll see you tomorrow night at Lower Wacker Drive's Billy Goat Tavern and the first round's on me. <br /><br />Kirk last night pointed out the difficult recent history of this seat, from its alleged attempted sale by ex-Governor Blagojevich, to the back-and-forth over a special election, to the drama around current U.S. Senator Roland Burris.<br /><br />KIRK This Senate seat was just returned to its rightful owners, the people of Illinois.<br /><br />This race was one of those most closely watched in the country. President Obama, the seat's former occupant, campaigned and raised money for Giannoulias in Chicago. But Kirk won, and will hang out in that exclusive capitol club along with veteran U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat who chaired Giannoulias campaign, and offered these thoughts on the 34-year-old's defeat:<br /><br />DURBIN: If you notice one of the late ads that came out from Mark Kirk's campaign suggested this is a question of maturity. Was he ready? And I think that probably cost Alexi some votes in the end, the question about whether he was mature enough, ready enough for the United States Senate.<br /><br />But if the Senate race was about personalities and experience, races for the U.S. House in Illinois were about the national mood, the Obama administration and a rejection of Democratic Party rule. At least three Democrats - including Debbie Halvorson from the 11th District, Bill Foster from the 14th and the 17th District's Phil Hare - all lost to their Republican challengers. And each of those challengers won by attacking health care reform and the $787-billion dollar economic stimulus bill.<br /><br />Meanwhile, one of the few chances nationally Democrats had to pick up a Republican-held seat was Illinois' 10th Congressional District, the one vacated by Mark Kirk. But Dan Seals, a three-time Democratic candidate, still couldn't close the deal. He lost to his Republican opponent, Robert Dold.<br /><br />DOLD: The national groups from Washington spent literally millions of dollars running a vicious negative campaign on us in attacks. They tried to come into this district and instill fear on each and every one of you, and try to tell you how to vote. They failed.<br /><br />In fact, outside money was used against both parties' candidates in Illinois. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks this money, outside groups spent more than $11-million on U.S. House races in Illinois alone. And for Republicans, it was money well spent. The GOP now holds a majority in Illinois' congressional delegation.<br /><br />But in Cook County government, the Democratic Party still rules. As expected, Chicago Alderman Toni Preckwinkle won big in her race for the county board presidency, as did Democratic incumbents running for county clerk, treasurer and sheriff.<br /><br />And in the one county-wide race where Democrats were expected to suffer, they didn't. Joe Berrios, the party chairman and tax board of review member, easily won the assessor's office, which sets property values that figure into taxes. That despite a fierce challenge from Democrat-turned-independent Forrest Claypool, a county commissioner. And Berrios didn't exactly get good press, called out for everything from his day job as a lobbyist to potentially shady conflicts of interest.<br /><br />BERRIOS: We were beat up, we were stomped on. You can take every newspaper - major newspaper, they call themselves - here in Chicago, that just tried to beat me up every which way but loose. But you know what, the voters and the taxpayers here in Cook County saw through all that.<br /><br />Berrios ran proudly as a Democrat, and in this county, that still counts for something.<br /><br />Also Tuesday, Illinois residents OK'ed an amendment to the state constitution, the 11th time they've done so since 1970. Voters will now be able to recall their governors; boot them from office before their terms are up. Something for our next governor - whoever he may be - to think about, when taking on all those big issues that lie ahead.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 03 Nov 2010 12:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/alexi-giannoulias/wrapup-dems-lose-big-senate-house-elections Judy Baar Topinka wins Illinois comptroller race http://www.wbez.org/story/comptroller/judy-baar-topinka-leads-comptroller-race <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2010-November/2010-11-02/Judy Barr Topinka (AP file M. Spencer Green).jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated At: 11:58pm</em> Republican Judy Baar Topinka has won the race for Illinois comptroller.</p><p>Democratic State Rep. David Miller conceded the race earlier this evening. He said he called Republican Judy Baar Topinka to offer his best wishes.</p> <div>With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Topinka had 53 percent of the vote, and Miller had 40 percent. Green Party candidate Erika Schafer and Libertarian Julie Fox also ran.</div> <div>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</div> <div>The comptroller maintains the state's accounts, signs checks to employees and pays bills. The office also has a role in regulating cemeteries.</div> <p>10,878 of 11,209 precincts - 97 percent</p> <div>x-Judy Baar Topinka, GOP 1,861,385 - 53 percent</div> <div>David Miller, Dem 1,427,213 - 41 percent</div> <div>Julie Fox, Lib 116,173 - 3 percent</div> <div>Erika Schafer, Grn 112,786 - 3 percent</div> <p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 03 Nov 2010 02:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/comptroller/judy-baar-topinka-leads-comptroller-race