POLITICS
07/17/2013 05:23 pm ET | Updated Jul 17, 2013

Sheila Simon Challenges Judy Baar Topinka For Illinois Comptroller

The Illinois lieutenant governor is seeking to unseat the Republican state comptroller, who former Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) once described as a "kooky old aunt."

Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon (D) has indicated that she will enter the Democratic primary to oppose state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka (R) in 2014, chicagomag.com reported. Simon had been expected to run for state attorney general in 2014, a plan thwarted by Attorney General Lisa Madigan's (D) decision to seek a fourth term rather than challenge Gov. Pat Quinn (D). Simon, the daughter of former United States Sen. Paul Simon (D), announced earlier this year that she would not seek reelection on a ticket with Quinn, one of the country's most unpopular governors.

An aide to Simon told chicagomag.com that she will formally enter the comptroller's race next week after returning from the National Lieutenant Governors Association meeting in Oklahoma City. A Topinka aide said his boss plans to seek reelection next year. Will County Auditor Duffy Blackburn (D) is also running for comptroller.

Simon's entrance into the comptroller's race potentially sets up a competitive down-ballot contest between two of the state's best known politicians. Simon, a law professor who was elected lieutenant governor in 2010, has focused her time as lieutenant governor on education, ethics, rivers and rural communities, along being involved in NLGA.

Topinka has had a long career in Illinois politics, including serving three terms as state treasurer before her 2010 victory for state comptroller. She was the 2006 Republican nominee for governor, a race she lost to Blagojevich, who later was impeached and went to federal prison on charges that he attempted to sell President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat. During the GOP primary, businessman Jim Oberweis tried to tie Topinka, known for her ethics, to former Gov. George Ryan (R), who went to federal prison on corruption charges, by showing a video of Topinka and Ryan dancing the polka. Topinka, the daughter of Czech and Slovak immigrants, plays the accordion and has done the polka before with politicians, including Ryan and former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Blagojevich's wife, Patti, told fellow contestants in 2009 on "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here," that her husband liked to describe Topinka as a "kooky old aunt." NBCChicago.com reported at the time that Rod Blagojevich meant the phrase "in a good way."

Topinka, a pro-choice moderate Republican who supports same-sex marriage, in 2006 told the Chicago Sun-Times that she is a "meat-and-potatoes type of person." She has also described Blagojevich as having "weasel eyes" and said that her decision to polka with Ryan was perfectly normal.

The Illinois comptroller is the state's chief accountant, auditor, and cemetery and funeral home regulator. Topinka also started the "Comptroller's Critters" program to promote animal adoption.

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