Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

12 December 2014

Judy Baar Topinka, the Polka Queen of Illinois Politics Dies at 70

Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register
Illinois politics is a lot of things, but boring rarely is the word to describe it. That is until yesterday. In the wee morning of December 10, 2014, Illinois politics lost its Polka Queen, Judy Baar Topinka.

Since I am an unabashed feminist who normally votes Democratic, one might wonder why Topinka means enough for me to write this post. Well it is because she was freaking awesome to watch. As many people in the media have said over the past day, she was blunt. The only spin Topinka knew how to perform was on the dance floor. I really wanted to share a video of her spinning around during a polka but every single media outlet's videos seem to be tagged with "Topinka polka" at the moment. ARGH!

She seems to be best remembered for her Chicken Little moment of telling Illinois that former Governor Rod Blagojevich was under federal investigation. But Illinois reelected him anyway after he linked her to the previous Governor who was already convicted of corruption. I told ya Illinois politics ain't boring. I still believe if she had chosen almost anyone else other than Joe Birkett as her running mate she may have won. Birkett's strident anti-choice stance pushed a lot of women away from even considering Topinka. For me, I could not forget his role in the Rolando Cruz case. 2006 was the year that the Green Party topped 10% of the vote, meaning a lot more voters than just me had lost faith in Rod, but couldn't vote for Joe.

But what she should be remembered for is that she was one of the first politicians, Democrat or Republican, who marched in Chicago's Pride parade. She was also pro-choice. Hell, she even bragged about voting for the ERA! That was Topinka, a straight shooter.

Which reminds me that one of my friends on Facebook (can't recall!) said something about picturing Dawn Clark Netsch and Judy meeting up in Heaven over some drinks and just shaking their heads at the mess the rest of us are left with. I can see it. And I hope so, because we're gonna need all the divine help to get through the budget mess we are in and appear to be headed into the "even worse" category.

Topinka was beloved by not just Republicans (heck, during her race for Governor her male primary opponents were so vicious to her, Hillary must have send her a card.) but also a lot of us Democratic women who respected her ballsy ways, her feminist sensibilities and how much fun she made politics look.

Thanks, Judy. You inspired a generation of women to lead this state with a wink and a hearty laugh. We shall carry on.

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