- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 10, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, who died Wednesday at the age of 70, was renowned for her blunt leadership style and colorful language. Here’s a look at some of the Riverside Republican’s more memorable moments and comments during her 34-year career:

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Serving as the state GOP chairman in 2006, Topinka stepped up to run for governor despite an unfolding corruption scandal enveloping former Gov. George Ryan:

“One fellow told me, ‘You are never going to get anywhere. You don’t run with the big dogs,” she said on the campaign trail. “OK, well, you know, now the big dogs are either retired, dead or in prison. So here I am.”

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During the 2006 gubernatorial campaign, Democrat Rod Blagojevich aired a commercial featuring her dancing the polka with Ryan:

“Everybody is going to be so fearful to dance with me that they’re going to be in a commercial, I’m not going to have any polka partners,” Topinka told reporters.

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As a legislator in the 1980s, Topinka was determined to get state funding to fix a sewer in her district in Chicago’s western suburbs. So, she persuaded Gov. Jim Thompson to climb down into the sewer:

“She said governor, ‘I want you to see this,’” friend and former state Sen. Jack Kubik said. “Judy would not rest until it was done … Once the funding was secure, she sent a manhole cover to Gov. Thompson as thanks.”

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Topinka was one of few Illinois Republicans to publicly embrace same-sex marriage legislation before it passed in 2013:

“I am available to be a flower girl, and I’ll even waive the fee,” Topinka said at a public event.

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To pressure lawmakers on pension reform last year, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn halted their paychecks - as well as his own. As comptroller, Topinka was in charge of writing the checks:

“(Quinn) said do not pay him, so he’s not getting paid,” she said. “If anybody else wants to volunteer not to get paid, we won’t pay them either.”

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Topinka scolded state lawmakers after they passed a $35.4 billion spending plan in May 2013:

“I hate to be the skunk at the picnic, but I must be,” she said. “I was surprised they tagged another billion or two onto the budget as if happy times were here again.”


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