Early returns favor Simon in race for state comptroller

Democratic Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon awaits election results at Connie's Pizza in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood. Lyndsey McKenna/Medill
Democratic Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon awaits election results at Connie’s Pizza in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. Lyndsey McKenna/Medill

By Lyndsey McKenna

Preliminary results narrowly favored Democratic Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon in the race for the state comptroller, with incumbent Judy Baar Topinka, a Republican, trailing.

As of 9:30 p.m. with 58 percent of precincts reporting, Simon had captured 49 percent of the vote to Topinka’s 46 percent.

Over the course of the campaign, Simon has consistently polled behind Topinka. The underdog has sought to make transparency a key issue. She has promised to pursue an aggressive role in providing local governments with financial overview if elected.

The comptroller oversees the state’s finances and acts as an accountant-in-chief. Contrary to popular belief, the comptroller, not the treasurer, serves as the state’s chief financial officer. The office was created in 1970, replacing the role of auditor of public accounts.

Simon is no stranger to Illinois politics. Her father, Paul Simon, served as a U.S. senator for the state of Illinois. In 2010, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn asked Simon, then a law professor at Southern Illinois University, to be his running mate when nominee Scott Lee Cohen dropped out.

Incumbent Illinois State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka lost the 2006 Illinois gubernatorial election to Rod Blagojevich. In 2010, she was elected comptroller. She previously served as state treasurer from 1995 to 2007.

Libertarian candidate Julie Fox was also on the ballot for the office of comptroller.