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Topinka Reaches Out to Republicans

By Amy Hart in News on Dec 21, 2005 3:00PM


A couple of weeks ago we let you know what Governor Blagojevich was doing to reach out to his base, and now it is time to turn the tables to discuss Republican frontrunner Judy Baar Topinka.

Chicagoist has heard from a lot of Democrats who are sick of Blagojevich and feel Topinka might be just moderate enough to get their vote, even though voting for a Republican might force them to throw up a little bit in their mouths or jump into the Chicago River.

We have news for these people.... Topinka may not be the moderate you think she is. Yes, we know she spends plenty of time saying things like “I’m a social moderate!” and “Jim Edgar wants me to win!” and “I’m going to take out Blagojevich!” But what does it all mean?

For all the moderate talk, lately Topinka has been taking evermore conservative positions to gather the support of the Republican base, which may be thinking Oberweis is more to their liking. This was surely the case when she selected DuPage County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett to run on her ticket for the lieutenant governor’s office. Birkett is the type of Republican who makes conservatives wonder if they might really be moderates. His sickening enthusiasm of the death penalty continues in the latest indictment of suspect Brian Dugan in the infamous Nicarico case.

What does this have to do with Topinka? Even though the lieutenant governor in Illinois has a limited role, it still forces one to question her motives and true political leanings, especially since Topinka now says she will end the moratorium on the death penalty put into place by George Ryan if she is elected into office. This is also a way for her to distance herself from her Ryan, formerly a political ally, who is now under trial for corruption.

Topinka is also refining her pro-choice stance, much to the chagrin of abortion rights groups, and wants restrictions on abortion, such as parental notification and a ban on late term abortions. This might be fine if every underage girl had parents like Cliff and Claire Huxtable, but in the real world minors might not be safe to tell their parents about a pregnancy, and exceptions need to be made to safeguard women’s health.

Finally, the Republican National Committee (RNC) is giving Topinka needed financial support for her campaign. The GOP believes it is important to win back the Illinois gubernatorial office, and they believe Topinka has the best shot of making this dream a reality. However, it is unlikely that they will give her money and then want nothing in return. If the RNC has an issue it really wants the state of Illinois to address in its favor (including abortion and the death penalty), then it would take the liberty on leaning on Topinka to make it happen.

So will these decisions make Topinka look more attractive to conservative Republicans in the primary election? Most likely, but it could also prove detrimental in the general election if moderates and Democrats underwhelmed with Blagojevich decide to stay with the governor they know rather than go with the candidate they are unsure of. Add this uncertainty to the tumultuous run Topinka had as chair of the Illinois Republican Party (Jack Ryan, Alan Keyes), and voters may decide that making a change in governor is good in theory, but not in practice.