CHICAGO (CBS) -- Gov. Pat Quinn said the people of Illinois should reflect on the life of the late Judy Baar Topinka before there's any public discussion about appointing her successor as state comptroller.
"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.
Topinka died early Wednesday morning, less than a day after she suffered a stroke. Last month, she defeated Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon in the race for Illinois State Comptroller, and was preparing to be sworn in for her second term in January.
The Illinois Constitution gives Quinn the authority to appoint a temporary successor to serve out the remaining month of Topinka's current term. After that, however, the constitution is somewhat vague, as it does not directly address what happens if someone who has been elected to statewide office dies before being sworn in.
However, most experts agreed Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner would likely appoint someone to serve Topinka's full four-year term after he takes office in January. Rauner also made a suggestion about who should take over on a temporary basis.
"Nancy Kimme is her senior person who knows the system, she should step in and serve right now and then when things are cleared and settled we can talk about a permanent person to serve out Judy's four years," Rauner said.
Even Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, who also heads the Illinois Democratic Party, said he doesn't believe there would be a need for a costly special election, as the constitution gives the governor the authority to appoint a successor should the office become vacant.
For his part, Quinn was not willing to discuss a possible successor to Topinka for now.
"I think the people of Illinois loved Judy Baar Topinka, and we all express that love today; to her family; to Joe, her son; and to her daughter-in-law, Christina; and to her granddaughter," he said. "There are no words in the English language to relieve the pain of losing someone so special."
Topinka defeated Sheila Simon in the November election. Simon was Quinn's running mate in 2010, and served as his lieutenant governor before deciding to challenge Topinka this year.
--CBS 2 Political Producer Ed Marshall contributed to this report.
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