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Mendoza declares victory in Illinois comptroller race

Incumbent Democrat Susana Mendoza cruised to victory on Tuesday over Republican former state Rep. Darlene Senger to hold her post as Illinois comptroller.

Senger conceded to Mendoza barely an hour after the polls closed. With 88 percent of precincts reporting, Mendoza led with 59.9 percent of the vote to Senger’s 37 percent. Addison accountant Claire Ball, the Libertarian candidate, stood at 3.1 percent.

Declaring victory at the Marriott Marquis Chicago, Mendoza took the stage to “Eye of the Tiger” and wore dangly Illinois-shaped earrings as she slammed her favorite target since taking the comptroller’s office.

“Thank you for re-electing me as your truth-telling fiscal watchdog who was not afraid to stand up to the biggest bully in this state: Bruce Rauner,” Mendoza said.

“Illinois has a brighter future because of you,” Mendoza told the crowd, after Democrats swept the statewide ticket.

Incumbent Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza speaks at an election night rally, hosted by gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, at the Marriott Marquis Chicago after beating Republican former state Rep. Darlene Senger in the election, Tuesday night, Nov. 6, 2018. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Incumbent Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza speaks at an election night rally, hosted by gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, at the Marriott Marquis Chicago after beating Republican former state Rep. Darlene Senger in the election, Tuesday night, Nov. 6, 2018. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

But after a smooth re-election as the state’s chief financial officer, one question lingers for Mendoza: How long will she keep the job?

Her name has been floated as a strong possible Chicago mayoral contender since Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced he wouldn’t seek re-election, and though Mendoza has insisted she hasn’t made a decision, any doubt she would jump into that race all but evaporated just four days before her statewide election when a leaked campaign ad featured Mendoza declaring “I’m running for mayor of Chicago.”

Senger, who labeled the video clip a “prime example of her arrogance and hypocrisy,” had called on Mendoza to drop out of the comptroller race.

“I can almost bet she’s running for mayor,” Senger said of Mendoza from Rauner’s downtrodden Election Night party at The Drake hotel. “I offered her my help. We need both sides to solve Illinois’ problems.”

Mendoza has until Nov. 26 to collect 12,500 signatures to get on the ballot for the February 2019 mayoral election, though supporters seeking to “draft” her to run for that office have been circulating petitions for weeks.

If she runs for mayor as political insiders expect — and wins — Democratic Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker would select her replacement.

Democrats also held onto the state treasurer’s office, with GOP challenger Jim Dodge conceding to incumbent Michael Frerichs, who led with 57.5 percent of the vote to Dodge’s 39 percent, with 88 percent of precincts reporting. Libertarian Michael Leheney earned 3.5 percent.

And Secretary of State Jesse White secured a sixth term, sailing into his 20th year in office with 68.2 percent of the vote over Republican Jason Helland’s 29.3 percent, with 88 percent of precincts reporting. Libertarian Steve Dutner netted 2.5 percent.

Contributing: Adam Thorp

For full election results, visit the Sun-Times election guide.