Constitutional officesAttorney general
After spending a decade as attorney general, Democrat Lisa Madigan opted to seek the office again. However, at one point she seemed to be considering a challenge to Gov. Pat Quinn. Her decision had a ripple effect on other constitutional officer races because Democratic Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon and former House Minority Leader Tom Cross were reportedly interested in running for Madigan’s seat if she chose to leave it. Both opted to seek other offices rather than challenge the popular incumbent, who is also the daughter of House Speaker Michael Madigan. During her time in office, Madigan has focused on consumer protection issues, among other things. Most recently, she has targeted the fallout of the housing crisis. She worked on several high-profile settlements with big banks over their lending practices that preceded the market collapse. Madigan is a lawyer and also served in the Illinois Senate before becoming attorney general. She is the first woman to have served in the office.
Paul Schimpf, the Republican candidate for attorney general, spent more than 20 years in the military, serving in the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a former prosecutor. He oversaw a legal clinic for Marines that specialized in family law and consumer protection law, and served as the lead American adviser to Iraqi prosecutors during the trial of deposed former president Saddam Hussein. He opposes the recently approved law that would cut public employee benefits. Schimpf says he does not oppose changing the pensions systems, but he believes that plan is unconstitutional. Madigan’s office is currently defending the law against a legal challenge from unions and retirees. If elected, Schimpf says he would focus on protecting individual rights, such as religious freedom and gun rights. He also says he would use the office to target government corruption and advocate for smaller government.
Secretary of state
Democrat Jesse White is Illinois’ longest serving secretary of state. He was elected to the office in 1998, when he became the first African American to hold the position. White spent more than 30 years working as a teacher and later an administrator in the Chicago Public Schools. He also served as the Cook County recorder of deeds. As secretary of state, White oversees the state’s department of motor vehicles — issuing drivers licenses and license plates and registering vehicles. He has focused on traffic safety, most recently working to deter residents from texting while driving.
Republican candidate for secretary of state Mike Webster is an attorney and a certified public accountant. Webster has served on the board of the Cass School District in DuPage County since 2005, and he is currently board president. He plays up his lack of political experience compared to his opponent’s resume, regularly pointing out that he is not “a career politician.” Webster says he hopes to make the office an ally to business and use the position to combat corruption.
Democratic Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon is challenging Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. Simon has served as lieutenant governor under Gov. Pat Quinn for the past four years. During her time in office, she has focused on education and issues facing rural communities. She has served as a prosecutor and was a member of Quinn’s Illinois Reform Commission, which was created to suggest changes to the state’s campaign finance law after former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was impeached and removed from office. She also spent a decade as a law professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. If elected comptroller, she says she would focus on transparency and government accountability.
Topinka became the state’s first female treasurer when she was elected to that office in 1994. She served until 2007, when she left the office after a failed bid for governor against Blagojevich. In 2010, she was elected as comptroller. Topinka also served in the General Assembly for more than a decade. Before her political career, she was a newspaper journalist. Topinka touts her work to make the state’s finances more transparent to taxpayers, including putting a searchable database of financial information on the comptroller’s website. She has spoken out in opposition to state borrowing.
Current state Treasurer Dan Rutherford opted to give up his office to run for governor, but was defeated by Bruce Rauner in the Republican primary. Two members of the General Assembly are now vying for the job of overseeing the state’s investments. Democratic Sen. Mike Frerichs was elected to the Illinois Senate in 2006. Before he was a lawmaker, he taught at Rantoul Township High School, served on the Champaign County Board and spent four years as the county’s auditor. He also managed Smart Structures, a safety engineering company. If elected treasurer, Frerichs says he would expand access to the college savings programs administered by the treasurer. He also says he would call for an audit of the office, cut down on travel costs and make the treasurer’s public schedule available online.
Rep. Tom Cross was elected to the Illinois House in 1992 and chosen by House Republicans to serve as their minority leader in 2002. Cross recently gave up the leadership role to focus on his bid for treasurer. Before becoming a legislator, Cross was a prosecutor for eight years. If he wins the race for treasurer, Cross says he would use the office to push for a balanced budget and would go so far as to sue lawmakers and the governor if they approve a budget that is not balanced. He says he would also create scholarships for the children and grandchildren of military personnel and veterans — as part of a college savings program already administered by the office.
Illinois Issues, October 2014