Illinois State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka will go back to her Czech roots this morning, officially announcing that she’ll be seeking the Republican nomination for governor at Klas Restaurant, the well-known Bohemian eatery at 5734 W. Cermak Road in Cicero at 10 a.m.

The rally kicks off a day-long whirlwind tour of the state for Topinka, a Riverside resident and regular columnist for the Riverside-Brookfield Landmark. During the afternoon, Topinka will appear in Peoria and Marion before capping the day with an evening event at 6 p.m. in Springfield.

According to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times last week, Topinka’s decision to finally jump into the Republican gubernatorial primary followed a signal from national Republicans that they’d throw their weight, and their money, behind her candidacy.

The prospect of potentially facing Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his war chest of millions had kept Topinka from announcing her candidacy any earlier. But on Nov. 25, Sun-Times columnist Lynn Sweet reported that Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman had met with Topinka and reportedly signaled the RNC’s interest in her candidacy.

Polls conducted by Topinka reportedly show her in striking distance of Blagojevich. She is the only statewide Republican officeholder in Illinois.

Previously, Topinka served as a state representative, serving two terms in the Illinois House. In 1984, she won a seat in the state senate, serving there for a decade. She’s been elected three times as the state treasurer in 1994, 1998 and 2002.

Topinka, a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, has one son, Joseph, who is a major in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. He is stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash.

North Riverside’s Garza sheriff candidate

Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune reported Sunday that North Riverside resident Peter Garza will be the Cook County Republican Party’s candidate for Cook County Sheriff in 2006. Yesterday afternoon at a press conference at the Hotel Allegro in Chicago, Garza formally accepted the party’s nomination for the post.

His nomination comes on the heels of the announcement last week that Democrat Michael Sheahan will not run for reelection for a fifth term as Cook County Sheriff. Democrats on Monday named Tom Dart, a former state representative and Sheahan’s chief of staff, as the party’s candidate.

According to information on the Cook County Republican Party web site, Garza is a 17-year law enforcement professional who grew up on Chicago’s Southwest Side. He graduated from Farragut High School and graduated from Illinois State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice.

After graduation, he began his law enforcement career as a deputy sheriff for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office. His assignments included courtroom security, transportation of detainees and Sheriff Academy instructor. For the past 13 years, he has served as a criminal investigator for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.