In the 2022 general election, Illinois voters will select their statewide office holders, but two offices in particular may stand out when residents look over their ballots.
While the offices of attorney general and secretary of state seem simple enough, Illinois is one of only a handful of states that has both a treasurer and a comptroller, with both offices controlling elements of the state’s finances.
So what is the difference between a treasurer and a comptroller? What do both offices do? And who will be on your ballots in November?
Here’s a crash course.
Who is Illinois’ Treasurer?
Illinois’ Treasurer is Democrat Michael Frerichs, who has held the role since 2014.
What Does the Treasurer Do?
According to the treasurer’s website, the office is “dedicated to protecting the state’s portfolio, ensuring the liquidity of all investments, and consistently producing earnings at or above industry standards.”
Essentially, the treasurer’s office is responsible for protecting and investing money and securities that are deposited into the state’s coffers.
Against most treasurers are effectively the state’s chief financial officer, the Illinois comptroller, Susana Mendoza, actually holds that role.
What Does the Comptroller Do?
According to the state’s constitution, the comptroller’s office maintains the state’s accounts, orders payments into the treasury, and pays the state’s bills.
Put simply, if the comptroller controls the state’s checkbook, the treasurer controls its investment portfolio.
Why Are the Offices Separate?
The reason that the treasurer and comptroller’s offices are separated is because of the actions of former Auditor of Public Accounts Orville Hodge, who embezzled more than $6 million from the state between 1952 and 1956, according to Illinois Public Radio.
Reporting by the Chicago Daily News revealed that Hodge had purchased multiple private jets and more than two dozen cars, and he later forfeited all assets and pleaded guilty to a raft of charges in exchange for a prison sentence of 12-to-15 years in prison .
According to WILL, the Hodge scandal led the state constitutional convention of 1970 to split the auditor’s office into the separate offices of the treasurer and comptroller.
There have been calls to reunite the offices, with the Chicago Tribune among the primary publications pushing for that to occur. In order to do so, the state would need to amend its constitution.
Comparatively few states have both treasurers and comptrollers, while a good number have auditors that serve as a check on the treasurer’s office.
So Who’s Running This November?
Frerichs is running for a third term in office, and was unopposed in the June primary.
He is running against Republican nominee Tom Demmer, who is currently a state representative for Illinois’ 90th district, and Libertarian candidate Preston Nelson, a solar energy consultant, in the November election.
Mendoza, who finished former Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka’s term and then won her first full term in office in 2018, is the Democratic nominee for a second full term in office.
She is running against Republican Shannon Teresi, currently McHenry County’s auditor, and Libertarian Deirdre McCloskey, a professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago.