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Democratic-Controlled Legislature OKs Special Election To Fill Vacancy Left By Topinka

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) -- Illinois' Democratic-led General Assembly approved legislation Thursday establishing a special election in two years' time for state comptroller, in a pointed move that defies the wishes of GOP Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner days before his inauguration.

The Senate approved the measure by a 37-15 vote. The House approved the measure 66-40.

The legislation was approved during a special session called by outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn. Democrats have at least nominally veto-proof supermajorities in both chambers. The bill also would apply to other vacancies that might occur in statewide constitutional offices going forward, except the governor's office.

A special election in 2016 gives Democrats a chance to take away the seat, especially if there is a strong presidential candidate atop the ticket, political experts say.

Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka died last month after complications from a stroke, just weeks after winning a second four-year term. Rauner opposes a special election and has said intends to name a four-year replacement immediately after he is sworn in. Rauner said Monday he plans to name Lincolnshire businesswoman Leslie Munger, a Republican, as Topinka's replacement.

Senate President John Cullerton and Quinn were early supporters of the special election proposal. House Speaker Michael Madigan, the state's longtime Democratic Party chair, threw his support behind the plan on Wednesday. That was a shift for Madigan, who previously said he believed the matter was for the executive branch to decide.

Republicans say the move, which could cut the tenure of Rauner's appointment in half, is a purely partisan maneuver at a time the two sides have pledged mutual cooperation in addressing the state's biggest issues. Rauner aides have charged that the special election would be "rushed through in a last-minute special session that would look overtly political."

Democrats insist it's intended only to give voters a choice in the matter.

Rauner, Madigan and Cullerton have expressed hopes of working together constructively on the state's largest problems, including a massive budget hole. Top Democrats said that their aim in approving the legislation was not to impede a working relationship with the new governor.


(© 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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