SPRINGFIELD — Illinois lawmakers were surprised but hopeful about Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner's plan to appoint Leslie Munger as state comptroller to fill the post left by the late Judy Baar Topinka.
"I don't know her. I hope to get to know her," said state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, summing up much of the reaction among his colleagues.
State Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, said he has never met Munger, but he believes the 58-year-old Lincolnshire Republican will work out well for the office.
"She's a businesswoman. She has a great educational background," Mitchell said. "The office is really not a controversial office. We need someone of integrity there. I think she fits the bill very well."
Munger, who has a master's degree in business from Northwestern University, worked at Helene Curtis/Unilever, Proctor & Gamble and McKinsey & Company. She made an unsuccessful bid for a seat in the Illinois House last year.
Rauner and his wife, Diana, each donated $10,600 to Munger's campaign, which is the most individuals can legally contribute. Munger donated $500 to Rauner's campaign for governor.
State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, said many downstate residents are not familiar with Munger, but he believes it was a good appointment.
"The Rauner administration has been very tight-lipped. It appears they've done their homework," Barickman said.
At least one downstate resident does know Munger. State Rep. Adam Brown, R-Champaign, said he has met her several times in connection with her unsuccessful bid for the 59th District House seat in November.
"I'm excited about the appointment. She's very well qualified," he said. "I was surprised Leslie was chosen given her profile on a statewide stage, but I think she will fit the mold quite well."
State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, said he thought Republican Tom Cross, a former House minority leader from Oswego, would get the nod after his close race for treasurer against Democrat Mike Frerichs.
Consolidating the offices was a goal of Topinka's, and, according to Rauner's announcement Monday, Munger agrees.
"The bigger question now looms, office-wise: What are we going to do with the special election?" Brady said.
Lawmakers are scheduled to return to action Thursday to decide if there should be a special election in 2016 to elect a new comptroller. Rauner opposes a special election.
"Rather than a special election for a short-term appointment, next year's ballot should include a constitutional amendment to merge the offices," Rauner said.