In a race largely seen as a proxy war between Gov. Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan, Democrat Susana Mendoza has unseated Republican incumbent Leslie Munger to become the state's next comptroller, a little known office that took on more prominence during the state’s historic budget impasse.
Munger conceded the race late Tuesday as she trailed Mendoza, who garnered 49 percent of the total votes with 94 percent of precincts reporting. Munger received 45 percent of the total votes.
The election for this obscure state office saw a frenzy of campaign cash as the state’s biggest political brokers contributed millions of dollars as part of their fight to control state government.
Mendoza has served as Chicago’s city clerk since first being elected to the office in 2011. Before that, Mendoza was a state representative for 10 years and an ally of Madigan.
Munger, a former executive of a cosmetics company, was appointed to the office by Rauner in January 2015 following the death of Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka.
In addition to supporting Munger, Rauner contributed more than $30 million of his own money to help boost the number of Republicans in the state’s General Assembly, hoping to weaken Madigan’s veto-proof majority in the House.
That money likely helped, as Tuesday was shaping up to be a big night for Republicans in the legislature.
Illinois Republicans knocked off three incumbent House Democrats and kept an important Chicago seat to make major strides toward reducing the Democrats' supermajority and give Rauner more power during an historic budget standoff. Republican Rep. Michael McAuliffe was re-elected in Chicago to remain the only GOP legislature in the city. Democrats, meanwhile, have lost three of their members — Reps. Kate Cloonen, John Bradley and Mike Smiddy.
Raunerr has struggled to accomplish many of his top legislative priorities, such as weakening the influence of unions, because of opposition from Democrats in the legislature. This political fight has hampered efforts to balance the state’s budget, leading to a historic 16-month impasse that ended with both sides agreeing to a temporary budget the expires at the end of the year.
During the budget impasse, the role of the comptroller took on greater prominence because the comptroller writes the state’s checks and decides who to pay immediately and who has to wait in line.
Additional reporting from the Associated Press.