- Associated Press - Monday, January 5, 2015

CHICAGO (AP) - Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner announced Monday that he will name a former businesswoman and onetime state legislative candidate as Illinois’ next comptroller, though it remained unclear how long the appointment might last.

Leslie Munger will fill the office left vacant by Judy Baar Topinka, a Republican who died last month shortly after winning a second, four-year term as comptroller. Rauner intends to make the appointment after he is sworn in as governor on Jan. 12.

But there’s disagreement over how long a Rauner appointee should stay in office. Outgoing Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has called legislators to Springfield Thursday to consider a possible 2016 special election for comptroller, which would give voters more say. But Rauner says he has the legal authority to make a full, four-year appointment.

Rauner and Munger both said Monday they favored another option: merging the state’s comptroller and treasurer offices, which advocates say would save the state millions of dollars.

“I’m not interested in a political career, only on doing what is best for the state we all love and want to make great again,” Munger said in a statement, adding that she’d “relentlessly advocate” for a constitutional amendment to combine the offices. “That’s what Judy wanted, and the people deserve the opportunity to vote on it. I would look forward to helping eliminate the very office to which I was appointed.”

A merger has been discussed for years, though legislative attempts to do it have fizzled. The comptroller writes the state’s checks, while the treasurer is tasked with investing state funds.

Munger, 58, has previously held director and management positions at Proctor & Gamble and Helene Curtis Industries, leaving her last job in 2001, according to a resume circulated by Rauner’s team. She lost in November to Democratic state Rep. Carol Sente for a seat in Chicago’s northwest suburbs. She’s since promoted her volunteer work.

During the campaign she promised not to take a state-funded pension if she won office and also said she’d never vote for an income tax increase. Munger is a graduate of the University of Illinois and holds a master’s degree in business administration from Northwestern University.

She didn’t return a message seeking comment Monday.

Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf said the governor-elect plans a fly-around tour with Munger later in the week. He said Topinka’s longtime aide, Nancy Kimme, will become Munger’s chief of staff.

“Leslie has always been laser-focused on fiscal and economic issues, and as comptroller, she will do everything within her power to help fix our state’s broken finances,” Rauner said in a statement.

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Associated Press writer Sara Burnett contributed to this report.

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Follow Sophia Tareen at https://twitter.com/sophiatareen .

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