By: Jeff Martin
The cramped space on the ballot for the Chicago mayoral election this spring just got a little tighter. The race with many faces and no clear front runner may have just found the most legitimate candidate yet, Illinois State Comptroller Susana Mendoza. Just 8 days after being re-elected to Comptroller, Mendoza officially announced herself as a runner for the soon-to-be vacated seat. Of course, anyone who’s been paying attention could have seen this announcement coming. NBCChicago reported on a leaked mayoral campaign ad while she was still running for Comptroller. Obviously, the multi-tasking did not hurt her bid for Comptroller in Cook County, where she won with 76.6% of the vote.
Mendoza has a strong track record of success with voters in Chicago. She began her political career by representing the 1st Illinois Congressional District in the Illinois House of Representatives. She served in the house until February of 2011 and her greatest success came in the education sector. Mendoza claims responsibility for creating the Illinois School Breakfast Program, a voluntary program that provides a non-profit offering breakfast for all children in attendance of all public and private schools enrolled in the program. Perhaps her greatest success was writing and passing legislation that saved the jobs of 3,000 teachers who may have lost employment due to antiquated immigration rules. Mendoza was also elected as the first female City Clerk of Chicago. She primarily revamped the much outdated sticker program and battled with Mayor Emanuel over efforts to increase city sticker prices.
Mendoza prides herself as a fiscal watchdog who harps on transparent and accountable government spending. Her successes as the Comptroller focused on remedying the woeful fiscal state of Illinois, which in 2017 was at risk of obtaining a junk credit rating. Mendoza passed the Debt Transparency & Truth in Hiring acts. Mendoza’s actions forced the state government into producing not just annual but monthly reports on spending practices. Mendoza also provided key contributions to cutting the states unpaid bills in half, and she played a major role in passing a budget after two years without one. Mendoza’s track record of finance management within her own office might entice voters fed up with Illinois corruption.
On Mendoza’s first day in office as Comptroller, she came out spitting fire. Mendoza immediately de-emphasized paying state employee bonuses, placing them in the back of the line while prioritizing unpaid bills that Illinois needed to address. Mendoza found those bonuses we’re going primarily to “top management staff.” By ending what she deemed an “unconscionable” practice, Mendoza freed almost 4 million dollars which were prioritized towards social services, education and public safety. Mendoza didn’t just cut bonuses, she also “made the lowest request for a General Revenue Fund appropriation level for the Illinois State Comptroller office in 20 years.” Mendoza looks like she might be a unicorn in today’s politics, someone who actually walks the walk after talking the talk. As a politician clearly comfortable speaking her own mind, and who prioritizes fiscal responsibility above fiscal handouts, Mendoza could present a challenge to some of the more politically entrenched mayoral candidates.