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RIP JBT

Thursday, Nov 8, 2018

* The above headline is what I tweeted out the night Judy Baar Topinka passed away almost four years ago. I think about Judy almost every day. She would’ve been finishing up what was expected to be her final term as comptroller right about now.

I bring her up because of this…



* Never has the death of a comptroller changed state history more than when Topinka died a month after her election four years ago. The staunchly pro-union, penny-pinching, sharp-tongued Republican would’ve been a check on the excesses of Gov. Bruce Rauner. She wouldn’t have stood idly by during the impasse or while the governor attempted to undermine union member rights. And she was about the only person he was afraid of in politics. Heck, we were all at least a little afraid of her.

Judy Baar was truly one of a kind. And she was my friend. And I’m getting a little emotional now probably because I’m tired from the election. I think I’ll go take a nap, but I just wanted to write a little something about Judy today.

Man, I miss that woman.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

51 Comments »
  1. - Norseman - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 4:47 pm:

    Ditto


  2. - anon - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 4:48 pm:

    Her ability to work with both parties and for the good of the citizens of Illinois is a characteristic more politicians should try to emulate RIP JBT!


  3. - Ron Burgundy - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 4:53 pm:

    Things could have been, heck, would have been so different if she was still with us.


  4. - Groundhog Day - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 4:54 pm:

    Riverside’s most notable daughter. We all miss her.


  5. - @misterjayem - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 4:56 pm:

    JBT was the GOP’s road not taken.

    – MrJM


  6. - JakeCP - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 4:57 pm:

    I miss her, too. I still wonder to this day what would’ve happened if we elected her Governor…..


  7. - DuPage Saint - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 4:58 pm:

    Saddest words are what might have been


  8. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 5:01 pm:

    God bless her.

    God bless that Crew she had. She loved them, they loved her right back, and that was special too.

    We all miss her.

    Thanks, Rich. She was special and this speaks to how special she was. JBT is not forgotten.


  9. - Anonymous - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 5:03 pm:

    ==JBT was the GOP’s road not taken.==

    Ahem, the GOP told the State to take that road in 2006. But Dem’s decided Blago was the better option. That worked out well.


  10. - illini - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 5:04 pm:

    I am a strong Democrat, but I loved JBT. She was a genuine, unique, honest and very engaging individual. And a great public servant.

    One of my valued possessions is a picture of the two of us taken years ago when I was an elected local official.

    I do find myself wondering how these past 4 years would have been different had she been able to have served her full term.


  11. - lakeside - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 5:05 pm:

    She was a great person, a great comptroller, and we dang well should have elected her governor. Worst mistake of the last 20 years.

    We shall not look upon her like again.


  12. - Bobby T - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 5:09 pm:

    Great post. Thank you.


  13. - JB13 - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 5:18 pm:

    Yes, how would Illinois have turned out if Democrats done the right thing and not voted for the criminal twice?


  14. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 5:22 pm:

    I made a promise to myself that if the GOP ever had someone as hurtful to Illinois… hurtful to Illinois as Blago in governing … I’d never sit idle and fall in line to that person.

    Rauner was that test. I hope I kept that promise.

    It was because of the example of a JBT and her speaking truth to politics and governing, I made that promise to myself.

    She is still a North Star.


  15. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 5:23 pm:

    @Anon 5:03

    For the record, Topinka was primaried by her own party, folks who thought they saw and exploited an opening on the right against a social moderate.

    Secondly, most insiders put Ryan out of their mind when it became clear he was being forced out of politics by the criminal net tightening around him. But you have to recall that George Ryan wasn’t convicted until April, 2006. His corruption trial dominated the news. And the ads of Topinka and Ryan dancing together.

    I don’t think any Republican could have won in that environment.


  16. - illini - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 5:37 pm:

    @ Willy - you kept that promise.


  17. - Anonymous - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 5:40 pm:

    Have sippy cup will travel.


  18. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 5:41 pm:

    (Tips cap to - illini -)


  19. - Soccermom - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 5:54 pm:

    Rich, I’m having the same day. Hang in there.


  20. - ChanceMcCall - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 5:55 pm:

    RIP - a very dear friend. A pox on SR and his crew who tried to destroy her politically.


  21. - Been There - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 5:56 pm:

    ===God bless that Crew she had. She loved them, they loved her right back, and that was special too.===
    I’m a Dem but thought highly of Judy. Always respected her even though I had to work against her a few times (the Blago race was definitely one I wish I stayed home for).
    But her crew? Let me just say I got on the wrong side of one of them just because I was a democrat. And my candidate had just lost to her. Wasn’t pretty. So the crew doesn’t get he same love respect as her from me.


  22. - A guy - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 6:08 pm:

    Miss her for so much more than any of the political reasons…I just miss her for her.


  23. - btowntruth from forgottonia - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 6:25 pm:

    JBT would have walked into Rauner’s office and would have gone off on him and made Andrew Dice Clay sound like Mr. Rogers.


  24. - Johninchicago - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 6:37 pm:

    JBT was a true states woman. Sadly we don’t have any such elected officials today!


  25. - cc - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 6:45 pm:

    Forget about political parties or office ; she was best elected official in my memory…Baar none.


  26. - Retired Educator - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 7:30 pm:

    “I still wonder to this day what would’ve happened if we elected her Governor…”

    When the Illinois Education Association awarded Topinka a posthumous award as a friend of education, I was almost livid. The IEA went all in for Blagojevich against Topinka in their gubernatorial contest. Instead of an award, the IEA should have endorsed her candidacy.

    Teach your children well.


  27. - Just Me - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 7:37 pm:

    If she was still around Rauner would probably have been re-elected.


  28. - G'Kar - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 8:05 pm:

    I didn’t know her, but I worked with a childhood friend of Judy’s. Even though he was a democrat, they remained close friends. He used to always smile and say he was the first boy to kiss her. They were in third grade, but a kiss is a kiss.

    When he passed all to soon, she came to the funeral and that was the only opportunity I had to talk with her for a little while.


  29. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 8:16 pm:

    I wouldn’t say I followed her political career closely, but I know the Riverside area well and know the character of the area and Republican constituency she relied on. It’s a constituency that is fading fast.

    She was the salt of the earth.


  30. - khill - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 8:35 pm:

    She was a force. I truly admired her and always enjoyed working with her and her staff on animal issues. The best.


  31. - park - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 8:40 pm:

    JBT and Jim Edgar were the Republican Party back then. Hopefully, we’re headed back in that direction. A great sadness that she wasn’t here to check the craziness of the last four year. RIP JBT.


  32. - Anonymous - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 8:58 pm:

    Several years ago I literally ran into her while coming around a corner at a DuPage County prayer breakfast event. It was darn early in a far hallway of the resort. This was the first time we met, I’m a nobody, but she was so gracious and down to earth I was smitten. The fact that here is a legend, with no handlers, at 6:45 am, taking the time to chat with me left a lasting memory. She is missed.


  33. - Anyone Remember - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 9:48 pm:

    She stood up to Pate, she would have stood up to Rauner!


  34. - Jak Tichenor - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 9:54 pm:

    JBT was always one of my favorite people to interview at the Statehouse and elsewhere. So smart, so straightforward, and always seeming to have the best time of her life talking with you. She knew the Illinois budget inside and out and despite its many layers of complexity, she could explain it in ways that anyone could understand. I’ll always have fond memories of doing live interviews with her outside the Senate chambers on June 30th as the final votes were tallied on a new state budget back in the day. My producer told her that red looked great on TV so she once showed up with a blazing red outfit complete with buttons and epaulets that would have looked perfect leading the Rose Bowl parade, all the while hitting all the right notes on what was taking place a few feet way on the Senate floor. She made it look effortless and fun. Sure, she could be tough, but she was never mean in any of my dealings with her She never lost the human touch..

    She was unfailingly kind to people along the way taking time to clip newspaper articles that mentioned one by name and sending them to you with her words of encouragement written in the margins.

    But above all else, I remember JBT as one of the “adults in the room” you could count on to give wise counsel no matter who was in power and someone who truly cared about the people she represented.

    God knows we miss her and what she stood for, but all you have to do is read the comments here tonight to know that her legacy lives on in the lives of those she touched along the way and we’re all the better for it.


  35. - West Side the Best Side - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 10:36 pm:

    I will forever regret that a year or two before her death,at the Brookfield 4th of July parade when Judy was having her picture taken with the VFW Riders that, just because I didn’t have a bike, I didn’t get into the picture.


  36. - Practical Politics - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 10:55 pm:

    It would be an understatement to say that Topinka enjoyed a significant degree of bi-partisan support in the Western suburbs. Incumbents of both parties did not always challenge other veteran pols. A friend related that a large group of people cleared out of a fund raising event for State Senator Martin Sandoval (D) to drive a few blocks away to a second fund raiser for Topinka (R) that was scheduled on the same night. People bought tickets to both events and the start time were staggered slightly to make it possible for ticket holders to attend both parties.


  37. - Pundent - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 6:20 am:

    If Edgar is the “wrong kind” of Republican and you’re still wondering what happened on Tuesday, look in the mirror.


  38. - Nearly Normal - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 7:25 am:

    Sadly, we lost JBT way too soon. Sadly, neither party has another like her. Got to speak to her at length at a Republican event in Bloomington years ago. I was impressed with her knowledge and humor.


  39. - Earnest - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 8:05 am:

    I hope she’s smiling about some of the transparency measures passed in the last couple of years.


  40. - Retailer - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 8:49 am:

    I remember when I first met Judy, I had a retail store and she was visiting our small town. I walked across the street to meet her and the first thing she did was grab my head in both of her hands and kiss my bald head, no hello, nice to meet you, nothing!. Then she said in her Chicago brogue, “Boy I love bald heads” I was in love from that point on…..


  41. - Commonsense in Illinois - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 9:17 am:

    We all do, Rich.


  42. - Anon - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 9:21 am:

    “While the governor DID undermine union rights.”


  43. - Honeybear - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 9:32 am:

    Sincere question OW or Rich
    Why is it that nobody except Edgar and Rodogno stood up to Rauner?
    I think it’s important to ponder it


  44. - DeseDemDose - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 9:32 am:

    Judy always stood Tall when the chips were down. Win or Lose.


  45. - Mr. Smith - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 9:43 am:

    Well said, Rich and OW. If JBT had been around, Things would, I suspect, have been very different the last 4 years. And if they hadn’t been, JBT would have run for Governor against Rauner and beaten him in the primary. I would cheerfully have crossed over to vote for her.


  46. - Al - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 9:45 am:

    Honeybear - republicans did not stand up to Rauner because they were in favor of his agenda and/or they were money seeking ninnies. They are pro-tobacco for goodness sake. No honor among thieves comes to mind.


  47. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 10:26 am:

    ===Why is it that nobody except Edgar and Rodogno stood up to Rauner? I think it’s important to ponder it===

    Easy answer?

    Look at Mr. Breen.

    It came back to the cash. The threat of it, the need of it, the lone source of it.

    Mr. Breen burned his ships, but in the end, for the party and caucus, went back to Rauner.

    It many have cost him, but tough to determine, given that wave that cut thru DuPage.


  48. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 10:29 am:

    ===they were in favor of his agenda and/or they were money seeking ninnies. They are pro-tobacco for goodness sake. ==

    Ugh.

    “they were in favor of his agenda”

    If that were true, there woulda been no need for the $50 mil and no $&@#% problems.

    “and/or they were money seeking ninnies.”

    They weren’t seeking money, in the end they were held hostage to the money. Ask Mr. Breen. Big difference.

    “They are pro-tobacco for goodness sake.”

    Um… ok… dunno how that fits in… but…


  49. - Leatherneck - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 10:33 am:

    If she had overcome the 2006 Democratic wave and political environment and defeated Blago–and most likely reelected in 2010 during the GOP wave–she would have passed away with only 1 month and 3 days left in her second term. With Joe Birkett finishing the last month of her term as Governor.


  50. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 10:34 am:

    To bring this back where it should be…

    I’ll leave the close to Rich Miller, if I could…

    ===The staunchly pro-union, penny-pinching, sharp-tongued Republican would’ve been a check on the excesses of Gov. Bruce Rauner. She wouldn’t have stood idly by during the impasse or while the governor attempted to undermine union member rights. And she was about the only person he was afraid of in politics. Heck, we were all at least a little afraid of her.===

    This is JBT. No one is like her, and no one like her is coming anytime soon. Illinois misses her. She is remembered.


  51. - Norseman - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 11:52 am:

    Honeybear, the impasse would have continued if not for the bravery of Reps. Andersson, Harris et al. Most paid for there courage with their career.


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