WTVO/WQRF - While the race for governor dominates daily headlines, another race that will impact Illinois is the election for state comptroller.
A recent poll shows Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka with almost a 19 point lead against Democrat Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon.
The poll released after the end of July by "We Ask America," still shows a close race with one in five voters still undecided.
Kent Redfield, a member of the University of Illinois Springfield’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs, said Topinka has gained a large following on both sides since her loss against former Democrat Governor Rod Blagojevich.
“There's certainly a little bit of buyer's remorse from people that didn't vote for her and voted for Rod Blagojevich,” Redfield said.
Now, Topinka is calling to downsize her own position proposing to merge the offices of treasurer and comptroller. She said it could save $12 million annually.
With Republican Treasurer Dan Rutherford retiring, Redfield said Topinka would be the favorite for such a post in an election. He said talk of a merger also fires up her conservative base.
"The other attraction is symbolic,” Redfield said. “The idea of cutting government, downsizing government, smaller government is all very popular."
Topinka also suggested eliminating the lieutenant governor position, the position of her opponent. Simon is opposed to such an elimination.
Redfield said this is the first year the lieutenant governor position has been handpicked by each gubernatorial candidate and removing the position could disrupt continuity in state policy after an election.
"Then you really don't have a follow-through of continuity in terms of what the election is supposed to be about,” he said.
Topinka has raised $388,760 this year compared to Simon's $318,610, according to most recent data from the Illinois Board of Elections. Topinka's total war chest is more than half a million more at $1,261,944 to Simon’s $510,367.
Experts say the lieutenant governor has not done well separating herself from her opponent.
"What the Simon campaign has not done is distinguish her candidacy," Redfield said.
Topinka is also receiving significant union support, a typical resource of campaign money for Democrats, not Republicans.
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