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Could lame duck Quinn waddle to Congress?

No smoke-filled rooms. No gin martinis. Instead, the politicos and journalists sipped paprika-infused vodka and munched venison tartare last week at the ASGK holiday soiree.

At the prominent political consulting firm’s reception, the buzz was about backroom politics: Who will Gov. Pat Quinn appoint to replace the late, great Illinois comptroller, Judy Barr Topinka? The most intriguing answer I heard: Whoever can help make him a senator.

OPINION

That is so Machiavellian. And so possible.

Illinois is still mourning the irrepressibly outspoken Topinka, as we should. She was our grande dame.

When asked about a possible appointment last week, Quinn properly demurred. “I think it is important to mourn the loss of a great public servant, and I think that really is what we should do today, and in the days leading to the funeral, and always remember Judy, because I think she would want us to carry on her legacy of people first,” he said.

Perhaps his legacy, as well?

There is a raging debate as to whether Quinn can legally appoint a permanent successor or just a placeholder until Gov.-Elect Bruce Rauner takes charge. The issue will end up in the courts, but if Quinn prevails, it’s a plum opportunity.

Look for Quinn to move ahead with an appointment soon.

It’s the most valuable card the lame duck governor has to play. If you want to run for the U.S. Senate, having a statewide office holder in your pocket comes in handy.

In the wake of his devastating loss to Bruce Rauner, these must be flinty times for Quinn. The man whose mantra is “Everybody in, nobody out,” doesn’t want to end up out — in the political cold.

The Senate is a tantalizing option for the soon-erstwhile governor. After wielding gubernatorial power, he won’t be content to revert to his old life of a gadfly, open up a storefront on North Elston Avenue and hold Sunday afternoon press conferences.

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