The “irrepressible” Judy Baar Topinka as Sneed calls her whose column reports breathlessly everything the prematurely orange haired dowager phones in…such as the fact that her little puppy dog has to date gone wee-wee in 10 countries…has just been endorsed for comptroller by the big teachers’ union—the Illinois Education Association.
She’s the last survivor of the GOP wing of the bipartisan Combine (begun originally by Richard J. Ogilvie but continued with a flourish by Big Jimbo Thompson, Jim Edgar, George Ryan and to a lesser degree by the unsmiling Irishman (half Italian) Jim Ryan. It was sometime during the Thompson years that she decided she could no longer afford to be a pro-lifer…so she changed overnight to pro-abort and pro-gay rights, including riding in the Lavender’s annual procession.
To keep her ethnic Catholicism brand alive, however, every once in a while she trundles up to the altar at Saint John Cantius, a popular Polish traditional church, to receive the sacraments. This puts her in league with all the other Squid Catholics who rise above principle who parade up in other Catholic churches as the Squid-led archdiocese beams: Richie Daley, Dick Durbin, Lisa Madigan, Pat Quinn…which makes her feel so comfy in that assemblage.
She’s not a member of The Squid but she knows what they’re about…having cut deals in the past with Dem Bill Lipinski (and as Riverside committeemen distributed brochures and sample ballots x’ing his name in preference to the Republican congressional nominee for which in return she received a goodly number of Squid votes to be elected treasurer). Later she cut a deal with Bobby Rush, he turning against fellow Dem Tom Dart who was running against her although the extent of their agreement is unknown: rest assured the Illinois GOP didn’t benefit from it..
Topinka who puts on the poor mouth and dresses accordingly to reflect what she hopes comes across as Lower Middle Class Ethnic…a brand she meticulously demonstrates… has been on the public dole one way or another since 1980, drawing pay from the state House (1980-84), state Senate (1985-1995), state treasurer (1994-2006) and now from the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) where she serves as a member of the RTA. That’s 30 straight years on the public dole. Now having cut a deal with the fat teachers’ union she’s almost a sure thing to win in this Republican year. You can count on her giving a slangy speech on thrift, citing her Czech keep-on-looking-down-as-you-
walk-cause-you might-spot a penny- or-maybe-a-dime heritage. But I tell you, she’s a smart one.
Believe it or not for one who is a virtual appendage of The Squid, she was elected Illinois State Republican chairwoman some years ago. Then Peter Fitzgerald was the conservative senator from Illinois who had alienated the GOP half of the Combine by refusing to assist George Ryan in turning the Abraham Lincoln Museum into a patronage dump. He also crossed the line with the Bush administration by nominating as U. S. Attorney someone not from the Illinois legal fraternity as he was told to do by the White House. He shook up the GOP Thompson-Ryan wing by nominating Patrick Fitzgerald (no relation). Thereupon the unkind federal law sealed the fate of Big George Ryan…he of the bulbous nose and flexible principles. All the $12 million that Big Jimbo caused to be spent from his law firm was to no avail. Big Jimbo was so solicitous of his former Lt. Governor that he used his own limousine to chauffeur George to the penitentiary.
Now ask yourself: why was Big Jimbo so solicitous of Old George staying out of jail? Warmth of heart, compassion and generosity comparable to that dispensed so often by Mother Teresa of Calcutta, obviously. Oh how Big Jimbo worried while George was in stir: He planned a last-minute reprieve from George W. Bush before Bush was due to leave office…but it was foiled by Blago’s embarrassing run-ins with the law and the p. r. timing was off. Still and all, watch for Big Jimbo to greet Old George with open arms when George gets out and lead a fund-raiser to see that he is properly cared for. Ah the loyalty that is extant within the Illinois GOP. Touching indeed. But now back to Topinka, a junior member of the Combine.
In payment back to Peter Fitzgerald for this unkind act of naming a fearlessly anti-corrupt U.S. Attorney who indicted a remorseless porcine crook she withheld her endorsement: a “gotcha” for the lawmaker who put into place the prosecutor for Ryan, whose corrupt secretary of state license division took a payoff from an illegal immigrant who knew little English, leading to the truck driver’s failure to halt his vehicle when beckoned to do so…a pipe falling from the truck and striking the car behind where six kids were immediately consumed in a fiery holocaust.
Topinka’s refusal to endorse helped convince Peter Fitzgerald not to seek reelection. It was the first time in modern memory a state chairman had refused to support a scandal-free incumbent of her party. On a radio show with me, she went through hoops avoiding an endorsement. Then the next day when criticism grew hot she lied and said she had not denied an endorsement.
So with all this history of loyalty to her party, you can see that she richly deserves being chosen as recipient of super-big campaign bucks …the only Republican chosen for this honor from the heavy pro-Dem teachers’ union and lobby.
Any day now she’ll call Sneed with another charming little morsel…if not about her puppy who went wee-wee in…last count..,.12 countries…how she dashes outside her house early mornings to pick up her paper in hair-curlers. How quaint. Just like average folks. Hah!
*St. Lydia is the patron of dye-makers but she could also be the patron of business women. She was the first person in Europe converted by the Apostle Paul. The Acts of the Apostles describes her thus: “A certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira [modern Turkey], one who worshiped God, heard us, whose heart the Lord opened to listen to the things which were spoken by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.” So she persuaded us.
The name Lydia means the Lydian woman by which she was known indicates that she was from Lydia in Asia Minor (Turkey). She was evidently a well-to-do agent of a purple dye firm, approximately 40 miles inland, across the Aegean Sea from Athens. She extended hospitality to Paul and his companions in Philippi. They stayed with her until their departure to Thessalonica.