Munger best bet for comptroller
It may not seem special — but the election for the comptroller's office really is.
The people of Illinois are fortunate to have two qualified candidates — Republican incumbent Leslie Munger and Democratic challenger Susana Mendoza — vying for the office of state comptroller.
It's our opinion that either candidate would do an effective job if elected in November. Munger already has demonstrated she can run the office and serve as an effective watchdog on state finances. At the same time, Mendoza has served ably as a state legislator and now as the city clerk of Chicago.
But it's our view that Munger, a University of Illinois graduate who had a long career in business, is the better of the two candidates and worthy of support in the Nov. 8 election.
This is the election that was not supposed to be. Just two years ago, longtime officeholder Judy Baar Topinka, a Republican, was elected to a second term as comptroller. But Topinka, who was 70, died just a month after the November 2014 election, creating a vacancy that Gov. Bruce Rauner filled by appointing the 60-year-old Munger.
That appointment should have been for Topinka's entire term. But Democrats sensed an opportunity to pick up a statewide office held by a Republican and pressed Rauner to agree to a two-year appointment and fill the balance of Topinka's four-year term by election.
That's why the winner, whoever it is, will have to run again two years from now.
Both Munger and Mendoza have strong backgrounds.
In addition to having her undergraduate degree from the UI, Munger earned a master's degree in business administration from Northwestern University. She worked in a variety of corporate roles, most prominently for Helene Curtis from 1984-2001 before resigning to become a volunteer and community leader in Lincolnshire.
As comptroller, she has demonstrated that she's serious when it comes to sound financial management, something this state desperately needs. Munger cut her office's budget, returning $1 million to the state treasury and reducing the number of employees in the nearly 50-year-old office to an all-time low.
At the same time, she has been zealous in warning the public about the state's dire finances, repeatedly driving home the message that Illinois is effectively bankrupt and must jettison the failed status quo if it's ever to recover.
At the same time, Mendoza also has a very impressive background. A scholarship athlete and student, she studied business administration at Missouri State and was elected to the Illinois House at 28. The 44-year-old Mendoza left the House in 2011, when she was elected city clerk of Chicago.
As she seeks election to her third different public office, it's clear Mendoza's ambitions go well beyond the comptroller's office, a traditional launching pad for higher office. Whatever her ultimate goal, Mendoza is a credible, talented candidate.
However, she is not without flaws, and it's those flaws that tip the endorsement balance to Munger.
Given the customs and entrenched political leadership in the city of Chicago, it's hard for politicians to escape the taint of Chicago politics. President Barack Obama mostly succeeded in doing so. But Mendoza has not.
There's no question that Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan has had an enormously negative impact on the state of Illinois. His political tactics and strongman rule have aggravated the state's policy problems, contributing in a big way to its current desperate state. Yet Mendoza calls Madigan her political mentor, one to whom she obviously owes strong loyalty.
Does that sound good for Illinois? Not to us.
Mendoza's other flaw is at least as serious, the pursuit of government employment as a means of feathering one's own financial nest.
Munger has pointed out that while Mendoza was a House member, supposedly a full-time job, Mendoza also was working in another full-time job as a project coordinator in the city of Chicago's Department of Planning and Development.
Her House job paid about $68,000 a year while her city job paid about $75,000 a year. Double-dipping is a time-honored practice among Chicago pols, who collect as many jobs and pensions as they can.
While legal, it's an unsavory practice that indicates these individuals are looking out as much for themselves — or more — as they are their constituents.
Mendoza vehemently defends the double-dipping, noting that payroll records show that she was not paid by the city for days when the House was in session.
That, for a Chicago politician, is an ironclad explanation of good-faith double-dipping. But will ordinary citizens be impressed with that justification for having two full-time jobs on the public payroll?
In our view, it's not acceptable. The state's legislative leaders insist that generous legislative pay is necessary to attract well-qualified people to do a full-time job. Yet Mendoza and others, while accepting full-time pay as legislators, work other full-time jobs.
Obviously, the taxpayers are being scammed — again.
The state has had more than enough scamming by our public servants. It can't afford any more. That's just one of several good reasons why Munger is the best choice for state comptroller.