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Carol Felsenthal
On politics

With Lisa Madigan Keeping Her AG Job, Sheila Simon Is Now Running for Comptroller

The current lieutenant governor, a former law prof, had her sights on Madigan’s office. Now, she’s setting up a potential run against Judy Baar Topinka.

Sheila Simon

Photo: State of Illinois

Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon. Not the next Attorney General. Maybe the next state comptroller?

So Mike Madigan is staying on as Speaker of the Illinois House, and his daughter, Lisa, 47, gets stuck having to cool her heels in the Attorney General’s office for another four years. Her decision, announced yesterday, that she will not run for Governor as log as her dad remains Speaker, must have ruined the day for Sheila Simon, another daughter with a pedigree—her father, Paul, who died 10 years ago. 

Pat Quinn’s lieutenant governor since he appointed her to the seat that two others had already turned down, Simon, 52, had announced last February that she would not run again for the beleaguered office. Simon did not exactly pay tribute to her boss, Pat Quinn, when I asked her in an interview a month later if she’d vote for him. “Way too early,” she said.

She would seek instead, Simon told me, another way to serve the people of Illinois. An attorney and former law professor at the Southern Illinois University School of Law, Simon seemed to have her eye on the AG’s job, figuring, wrongly, that Lisa would move on up.

I called her campaign office—yes, she has one—this morning, and her campaign manager, Dave Mellet, told me that Simon was at a lieutenant governors’ conference in Oklahoma, and not available to talk today. He said that she will announce in the next week or so that she is running for state comptroller. “She has said all along that her goal was to find an opportunity to advocate for all of Illinois. The state comptroller’s seat is an opportunity to do that.”

I next called current comptroller, Republican Judy Baar Topinka, 69, to ask her if she plans to run again for the office. Brad Hahn, her director of communications, told me that she’s in meetings, but that I should hear from her this afternoon. I’ll post her comments later today. 

[Update: Hahn told me that Judy Baar Topinka is running for a second term, but that she would hold off on commenting on Sheila Simon’s plans until she knows who else is in the race. “She is proud of what she has accomplished in a short time,” Hahn said, “and looks forward to building on that in a second term.” 

A contest between the two women would be worth watching. They’re both squeaky clean politicians, serious, and from what I’ve seen of them I think it would be fair to say that, in their personal lives, they’re frugal, seemingly not motivated by money. (Simon lives with her husband, Perry Knop, a professor at a community college in Carterville; the family lives in Carbondale.)

Which is not a bad image and approach to life if one wants to be comptroller of a bankrupt state.

The office of comptroller has had an image boost in the last week since disgraced former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer has announced that he’s running—not for his old job, but for comptroller. He claims it’s the most important job in the state. Who knew?

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