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Topinka picks Birkett to be her running mate

Topinka picks Birkett to be her running mate

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SPRINGFIELD State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka is joining forces with DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett in an attempt to secure the Republican nomination for governor next March.

Birkett, who ran for attorney general in 2002, is expected to announce next week he will run for lieutenant governor on a ticket with Topinka.

The move is aimed at bolstering the moderate Topinka's appeal among conservative Republicans. Birkett is a foe of abortion and has conservative views on gun control and gay rights.

"That mitigates those who think that Judy is a little too liberal," said U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, a Peoria Republican who had earlier entertained a bid for governor.

LaHood also said Birkett, as a prosecutor, can connect with voters on the issue of battling corruption in state government.

Birkett's decision to run for lieutenant governor comes less than a week after state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger, R-Elgin, announced he would run for lieutenant governor paired with moderate Chicago businessman Ron Gidwitz.

The other Republican candidates for governor include state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington and North Aurora businessman Jim Oberweis.

In Illinois, candidates for lieutenant governor run separately in the primary election. The winner is then paired with the victorious gubernatorial candidate in the general election.

Rauschenberger said he won't run in the general election if Topinka wins in March.

With Birkett and Rauschenberger in the Republican lieutenant governor's race, state Reps. Raymond Poe of Springfield and Jim Watson of Jacksonville aborted their bids for the post and will instead seek reelection to the Illinois House next year.

Formal filing to run in the March 2006 primary begins Monday.

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