- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 10, 2014

CHICAGO (AP) - Amid uncertainty about the process to replace the late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner pressured Gov. Pat Quinn Wednesday to name Topinka’s longtime aide to the job temporarily.

Topinka died Wednesday after suffering complications from a stroke. News of the 70-year-old moderate Republican’s death resonated beyond state political circles with condolences from the White House, gay rights activists and unions. Her death while a sitting constitutional officer - with a second term approaching - also created a rare situation for the outgoing Democratic governor.

By law, Quinn is tasked with appointing a successor to finish out a term when a statewide office becomes vacant, though how long his appointee will hold office isn’t as clear. Political experts said the law suggested it’d be up to Rauner to make a permanent appointment next month.

Quinn told reporters Wednesday it was too early to discuss succession plans. Still, Rauner urged him to appoint adviser Nancy Kimme until new terms start in January. Rauner said Kimme - who’s a member of his own transition team - would make a smooth transfer.

“We should have continuity very quickly because the people of the state deserve service,” Rauner said. “Nancy Kimme is her senior person who knows the system. She should step in and serve right now and then when things are clearer and settle we can talk about a permanent person to serve out Judy’s four years.”

Rauner said he believed he had the power to name a permanent replacement. Topinka would’ve been the only other Republican constitutional office to serve with Rauner and Lt. Gov.-elect Evelyn Sanguinetti.

Kimme, who worked on Topinka’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign and served as chief of staff, declined to comment. She’s also been a volunteer “senior adviser” to Rauner since November’s election.

Quinn said he’d let the state constitution and court cases guide his decision.

Meanwhile, political experts said the situation was unique in Illinois, at least in more than a century.

State law says the governor’s appointee shall serve as a constitutional officer “until the elected officer qualifies or until a successor is elected and qualified” - which some political experts suggested left the door open for a special election.

Others, like Richard Winkel with the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs, said the law suggests that the duty of naming the remainder of Topinka’s term is Quinn’s and the full-term appointment is up to Rauner.

“There’s two vacancies going here,” said Winkel, a former state senator.

Illinois Attorney General spokeswoman Maura Possley would only say Quinn has the authority to appoint a successor.

“We are further researching questions regarding the length of the appointment and anything else,” she said.

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

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Associated Press writer Kerry Lester in Springfield, Illinois, contributed to this report.


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