Gov. Pat Quinn on Friday appointed a longtime aide, Jerry Stermer, as the new state comptroller to finish out the late Judy Baar Topinka’s term which ends in less than a month.
The announcement comes one day after the governor called back lawmakers for a special session on Jan. 8 to take up legislation that would set a 2016 special election to replace Topinka long term.
“The people should elect a successor to Judy Baar Topinka as soon as possible,” Quinn said at the news conference.
Stermer, Quinn’s budget director, said he would resign Jan. 12, when Topinka’s current term ends. Quinn said he wanted to avoid any protraced litigation.
Quinn said he chose Stermer as someone who could work well with the current staff in the comptroller’s office. Topinka’s chief of staff, Nancy Kimme, will remain in her job.
Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner applauded Quinn’s move in a statement.
“Appointing a temporary placeholder and keeping Judy Baar Topinka’s staff in place is an appropriate decision and will ensure continuity of services for the people of Illinois – for that I thank the governor,” Rauner said in a statement. ”I know Jerry Stermer will be well served by Nancy Kimme and the team in the comptroller’s office.”
Earlier this week, Attorney General Lisa Madigan said voters should have a hand in choosing a successor to Topinka, a Republican.
Madigan also said that there were two vacancies — one involving the remainder of Topinka’s current term, ending in less than a month.
The other begins on Jan. 12, which is Rauner’s appointment to make. Rauner’s camp on Thursday came out against a special session and a special election, saying his appointment should be for a four-year term.
A spokesman for Rauner warned an election to replace Topinka in 2016 could result in “costly litigation.”
“The only route to enact a special election for a statewide officeholder that is absolutely consistent with the constitution is passing a constitutional amendment,” Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf said. “Additionally, any major change like this should apply to all future vacancies and be carefully and thoughtfully discussed — not rushed through in a last-minute special session that would look overtly political.”