Illinois Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka narrowly edged out a GOP rival to clinch the Republican nomination for governor late Tuesday, earning a chance to challenge Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich in November.
The race sets up a battle between two political insiders, pitting the incumbent governor’s record on education and health care against claims that he mismanaged state money and used his office to reward political pals.
Topinka, the former head of the Illinois Republican Party and the only Republican holding statewide office, beat Jim Oberweis, a dairy owner and investment manager.
With 79 percent of precincts reporting, Topinka had 246,870 votes, or 38 percent, and Oberweis had 206,784 votes, or 32 percent.
Blagojevich, who did little campaigning and rarely acknowledged his opponent, easily defeated former Chicago Alderman Edwin Eisendrath for the Democratic nomination with 68 percent of the vote in unofficial returns.
Man, stuck in mud, dies after fleeing
A man running from a routine traffic stop early Tuesday sank waist-deep in mud and apparently died of exhaustion and cold while authorities tried to pull him out.
Deputies stopped Shawn E. Leflore, 33, for having an outdated registration sticker, said sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Don Peritz.
“He thought he was wanted. That is why he ran,” Peritz said. “But it turns out he wasn’t wanted for anything, except his driver’s license was expired.”
Charges dropped against teacher
Prosecutors in one Florida county decided Tuesday to drop charges against a former Tampa teacher accused of having sex with a 14-year-old middle school student.
The decision, announced hours after a judge rejected a plea deal for Debra Lafave, means the victim won’t have to testify.
Lafave’s sentence in another county for having sex with the same boy still stands.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys had urged the judge to accept the deal for the sake of the boy involved. A psychiatrist who examined the teenager told the judge at a previous hearing that the boy suffered extreme anxiety from the media coverage of the case and does not want to testify.
Marion County Circuit Judge Hale Stancil, however, said the lack of prison time for Lafave under the plea deal “shocks the conscience of this court,” and he rejected it.
Lafave, 25, was already sentenced to three years of house arrest and seven years probation in Hillsborough County, where she was charged with having sex with the same boy in a classroom and her home. She pleaded guilty Nov. 22 to two counts of lewd and lascivious battery under a plea deal there.
Lafave said at a news conference later Tuesday that she was getting treatment for bipolar disorder. “I have a lot of things in my past that have unfortunately become public,” Lafave said.