Illinois State Compotroller Judy Baar Topinka died following complications from a stroke. She was 70 years old.
She had won a second term last month in a hard race.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a statement saying he was “deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Comptroller”.
“Judy had a passion for serving the people of Illinois that equaled her passion for life. For more than three decades, she brought a relentless work ethic, a determination to attack our state’s fiscal challenges, and a sense of humor and smile that brightened the day of anyone in her path. As the first woman to serve as Illinois Treasurer, she will always have a special place in the history of our state,” the Mayor said.
She also was former Illinois State Treasurer, having served as Treasurer from 1995 to 2007, and former chairwoman of the Illinois Republican Party. She was the first woman to become state treasurer, first to be elected to three consecutive terms and the first Republican to hold the post in more than thirty-two years. During her last term as Treasurer, she was the only elected statewide official from the Republican Party in Illinois.
In November 2005, Topinka announced her decision to run for Governor of Illinois. In March 2006, she was nominated as the Republican candidate. She was the second woman, (after 1994 Democratic nominee Dawn Clark Netsch) and first Republican woman to be nominated for governor of Illinois. She went on to lose the election to former Governor Rod Blagojevich, who is in prison for corruption.
In 2010, she successfully ran for the office of Illinois State Comptroller. She was re-elected to a second four-year term in November 2014, but died of a stroke in December 2014.
Topinka was born in the Chicago suburb of Riverside, to William and Lillian Baar, the children of Czech and Slovak immigrants. She graduated in 1962 from Ferry Hall School in Lake Forest and and entered Northwestern University in Evanston. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the university’s Medill School. After leaving Northwestern, Topinka became a reporter for several suburban Chicago newspapers and rose through the ranks to become an editor. On the side, Topinka established her own public relations business, through which she began a career in consulting for various political candidates. In 1965, she married Joe Topinka. They had a son, Joseph, before divorcing in 1981.