Republican challenger Darlene Senger on Wednesday told Democratic incumbent Susana Mendoza that her attacks on Gov. Bruce Rauner have politicized the state comptroller’s office “to a level it hasn’t been taken before.”
Mendoza admitted that she “got pretty personal about this stuff, and I did take it to the governor all the time,” but she made no apologies.
“I felt that we were in the worst fiscal crisis in the state of Illinois, and I think that my record, like I said — if you look at what we’ve done in this office — has been with almost unanimous support,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza, Senger and Libertarian challenger Claire Ball all made their cases for being elected to the state’s fiscal manager spot in a joint appearance before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board.
All three sparred on combining the comptroller’s office with the state treasurer’s office, with Mendoza and Ball, a certified public accountant from Addison, arguing to keep the two separate in order to maintain checks and balances that protect against embezzlement and misuse of money. Senger said the two offices should be combined.
Ball also said that she’d support eliminating redundant services between the two offices to cut costs and putting the issue on the ballot to let voters decide.
But it was a question on whether or not the job of comptroller is a political one — and the tough financial choices that come with being comptroller — that set off the most spirited debate between Senger and Mendoza.
Senger argued that Mendoza often made the office too political by lobbing criticisms at Rauner. There have been some real concerns about turning that office into a politicized office versus keeping it independent, the Naperville Republican said.
“There’s no question that it’s been taken to a level it hasn’t been taken before, and you don’t see Treasurer [Mike] Frerichs or Secretary of State Jesse White do the same thing that you were doing,” Senger said, addressing Mendoza.
“If you’re trying to go out to say ‘I’m being transparent, I’ve got good information for you to share’ you do your 9-to-5 job, but then after your 9-to-5 you’re totally politics on everything, people are going to start thinking ‘hey, are these numbers political?’”
Mendoza argued she felt her approach was necessary when looking at the state’s finances and after meeting with people who were “on the verge of being disconnected from their life-saving medical services.”
One of the biggest questions — whether Mendoza will run for mayor — was left unanswered.
The Northwest Side Democrat said she is still undecided about a mayoral run, but is “very focused” on winning another term in November.
She didn’t promise to serve a full term and said she hadn’t ruled anything out.
“I’m very focused on being comptroller, if you look at my calendar … you’ll see that all of my appearances on my calendar continue to be for comptroller,” Mendoza said. “I wouldn’t rule anything in or out, and I’m just being honest with the public. … I’m not lying to you when I tell you I’m not even close to making a decision on that.”