Judy Baar Topinka is running for State Comptroller.

I wish her luck.  Really.  And have a “Close Encounters of the Judy Kind” story to share.

First, from CBS 2 Chicago:

Judy Baar Topinka, once the main face of the Illinois Republican Party, is staging a political comeback after being defeated in the 2006 governor’s race by the since-indicted Rod Blagojevich. 

But she’s not setting her sights on the top of the 2010 Republican ticket and mounting an “I-told-you-so” campaign this time. Instead, the former three-term state treasurer sees the bottom of the ticket as the place to reinvigorate her political career. 

Topinka is circulating voter petitions to get on the Feb. 2 ballot as a candidate for state comptroller, the post that Democrat Dan Hynes will vacate to campaign against Gov. Quinn in his party’s gubernatorial primary. 

With the soreness of her 2006 loss having eased, Topinka, 65, comes at this election having warned voters — long before his ouster from office and indictment — that Blagojevich was a political time bomb waiting to explode.

She was right about Blago.  I have no idea if she’s right for State Comptroller.

At any rate, a few years ago, during the gubernatorial campaign in Illinois, I had the opportunity to accompany some Young Democrats to the IVI-IPO’s annual awards dinner in Chicago.

As we entered the ballroom, we located our table and found Judy Baar Topinka herself standing right next to our table chatting with folks, holding a 20 oz. cup of coffee.

The Young Dems, a high school group I shepherded for several years, took their seats at their table.

Just then, Judy finished chatting with whoever she was chatting with, and turned and faced those of us seated at this table.

The next moment was strange, and left us all with an eerie feeling.

Ms. Topinka looked at my group seated at the table and swooped her face over us, literally, bellowing, “Hello-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o!”

It was quite odd.  The high school kids just froze and looked at each other. I recall that her make-up looked pasty white.  Pasty white.  No kidding.

The silence lasted a breath or two.

At this point, Ms. Topinka muttered something, and walked away.

After she left, one of the kids told us Topinka said, “Must be a liberal table!” And with that, she strolled away.

Look, I honestly wish Ms. Topinka well in the upcoming election cycle.  Certainly Rod (“What’s she thinking?!?!?!?) Blagojevich was the wrong man for the job.  Judy should have won.  But I’m not about to vote for her for Comptroller out of sympathy.  I’m looking very closely at David Miller right now.

But, Judy?  She needs to remember, in politics and elsewhere in life, first impressions are everything.

And we’ll always have Chicago.