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Judy Baar Topinka (born January 16, 1944) is the former Illinois State Treasurer, having served from 1995 to 2007, and former chairwoman of the Illinois Republican Party. She was the first woman to become state treasurer, first to be elected to three consecutive terms and the first Republican to hold the post in more than thirty-two years. During her last term, she was the only elected statewide official from the Republican Party, in Illinois. She is also the last Republican to have been elected to a statewide office in Illinois.

In November 2005, Topinka announced her decision to run for Governor of Illinois. In March 2006, she was nominated as the Republican candidate. She is the second woman (after 1994 Democratic nominee Dawn Clark Netsch) and first Republican woman to be nominated for governor of Illinois.

Early years

Topinka was born in the Chicagomarker suburb of Riversidemarker, Illinoismarker, to William and Lillian Baar, the children of Czech and Slovak immigrants. She graduated in 1962 from Ferry Hall School in Lake Forestmarker and entered Northwestern Universitymarker in Evanstonmarker. Topinka received a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the university's Medill School. She is an alumna of Alpha Gamma Delta sorority. After leaving Northwestern, Topinka became a reporter for several suburban Chicagomarker newspapers and rose through the ranks to become an editor. On the side, Topinka established her own public relations business, through which she began a career in consulting for various political candidates.

In 1965, she married Joe Topinka. They had a son, Joe, before divorcing in 1981.

Topinka is a member of the Illinois St. Andrew's Society and attends multiple events throughout the year.

Legislative career

In 1980, Topinka first pursued her own career in politics by running for the Illinois General Assembly. She won a seat in the House of Representatives at which she served two two-year terms. In 1984, she set her sights on the upper house of the Illinois General Assembly and won a seat in the Senate at which she served ten years.

Illinois State Treasurer

In the middle of a term as state senator, Topinka joined the Illinois State Treasurer race in 1994 and won the election. Her popularity grew and she was reelected in 1998 and 2002.

Illinois Republican Party

The year 2002 proved to be one of the most damaging years for the Illinois Republican Party. It suffered immense losses statewide as allegations of corruption emanating from the office of Governor George H. Ryan culminated in federal criminal indictments. The party lost its stronghold over its historical base, the Chicago suburbs. The party lost the governorship to the Democratic Party of Illinois, under Governor Rod Blagojevich, a former member of Congress, from Chicago. To make matters worse, donors withheld funds from the Republican organization and the party was driven into near bankruptcy.

In order to save the state party, Topinka, the only statewide Republican officeholder, was appointed chair that year. Upon assuming the role, Topinka quickly drafted a reorganization plan hoping to fill Republican coffers once again as well as rebuild the party's public image. Topinka's tenure as the head of the Illinois GOP expired in January 2005; her replacement was Andrew McKenna.

Illinois gubernatorial campaign

On November 7, 2005, Topinka announced that she would not seek re-election as state treasurer — instead, she entered the gubernatorial primary, hoping to challenge Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich. The Republican primary was deeply divisive; her tenure as Party Chairman destroyed her support from the conservative wing of her party, and it was feared that her pro-choice and positive gay rights positions would be detrimental to her standing with the same conservatives. In December she announced that she would join forces with DuPage Countymarker State's Attorney Joe Birkett as a candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Illinois.

In February 2006, the candidates for the Republican nomination for Illinois Governor began running their first TV ads for the March statewide primary election. Rival candidate Ron Gidwitz's advertisements, attacking Topinka, were rebuked in the same week by the Illinois Republican Party: "In an unprecedented action, the Illinois Republican Party has officially rebuked the Gidwitz campaign for this ad because the Party found that the ad violates the Party's "Code of Conduct," which was enacted to police proper conduct among Republican candidates."

Later in February, candidate Jim Oberweis, another rival for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, started a series of attack ads for television markets, against Topinka, that were even more widely criticized, mostly for using "fake" headlines on the images of actual Illinois newspapers. These ads, like Gidwitz's ads, also came under review by the Illinois Republican Party. Because of the controversy generated, several television stations withdrew Oberweis's ads.

On March 21, 2006, Topinka won the Republican nomination with 37 percent of the vote.

On November 7, 2006, she lost the race to Blagojevich, giving an upbeat, humorous speech after his acceptance speech. In it she thanked many, hoped that more young people would be interested in public service, and wished all well.

After her 2006 defeat in the polls, she auctioned off much of her political memorabilia from her campaign office in January 2007.

She is now a candidate to seek the Republican nomination for Illinois State Comptroller in the 2010 election.

Electoral history

  • 2006 election for Governor of Illinois
  • 2002 election for state Treasurer
    • Judy Baar Topinka (Republican) (inc.), 55%
    • Tom Dart (Democrat), 43%
  • 1998 election for state Treasurer
    • Judy Baar Topinka (Republican) (inc.), 50%
    • Dan McLaughlin (Democrat), 48%
  • 1994 election for state Treasurer
    • Judy Baar Topinka (Republican), 51%
    • Nancy Shaheen (Democrat), 49%

See also



  1. Article originally published in the Chicago Tribune about Oberweis's "faked" newspaper headline campaign ads.
  2. article about the same ads.
  3. Article originally published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about Oberweis's ads coming under review by the Illinois Republican Party.
  4. Article originally published in the Daily Herald about the withdrawal of Oberweis's ads from some Illinois television markets.

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