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Mary Edly-Allen, Illinois House 51st District Democratic nominee profile

Her top priorities include assistance for businesses amid COVID-19, mental health care and investment in community colleges and vocational trades.

Mary Edly-Allen, Illinois House 51st District Democratic nominee and incumbent, 2020 election candidate questionnaire
Mary Edly-Allen, Illinois House 51st District Democratic nominee and incumbent.
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Candidate profile

Mary Edly-Allen

Running for: State Representative

Political party affiliation: Democrat

Political/civic background: Lifelong community advocate. Co-founder of an educational non-profit, Foundation46, and a founding member of the Community Consolidated School District 46 Diversity Committee. Serves on Board of Directors of the Illinois Science Olympiad

Occupation: Former Teacher

Education: B.A. in Education from Northeastern Illinois University. Master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with bilingual certification from National Louis University.

Campaign website:


Twitter: @MaryforIL

Instagram: @MaryforIL

The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent nominees for the Illinois House of Representatives a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois and their districts. Mary Edly-Allen submitted the following responses:

1. COVID-19 pandemic has hammered the finances of Illinois. The state is staring at a $6.2 billion budget shortfall in this fiscal year. What should be done? Please be specific.

The financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is going to take years for the state to fully recover from. We need independent leaders who are willing to put partisan games aside and make tough choices that will move our state forward. We will continue to build off the bipartisan budget passed in Fiscal Year 2020. We must be thoughtful as we look at areas we can reduce spending. Any cuts need to be made with a scalpel and not a machete. Efficiencies may be gained by consolidation of government programs and services, however we must make sure we preserve programs that support our most vulnerable—especially as so many residents face economic uncertainty.

2. What grade — “A” to “F” — would you give Gov. J.B. Pritzker for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic? Please explain. What, if anything, should he have done differently?

The biggest and most important challenge facing leaders across the country in dealing with this unprecedented pandemic has been how to keep communities safe from COVID-19. We need to continue to remain vigilant to ensure that testing is widely available for residents and the results of those tests are processed in a timely manner. We must continue to connect our residents and businesses to the resources that will support them. Now more than ever is it important that leaders across the political spectrum put aside their differences and work together. Political games and pointing fingers are easy. I intend to continue offering a helping hand to work with everyone—regardless of party—who is serious about solutions for all Illinoisans. I appreciate Gov. Pritzker and his teams’ willingness to listen to the needs of my constituents and make adjustments to the Restore Illinois plan when needed.

3. In the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, legislatures in some states have taken up the issue of police reform. Should Illinois do the same? If so, what would that look like?

The death of George Floyd and so many others is a tragedy. It is clear that the status quo is not working and we need to examine ways to reform our criminal justice system. We must hold bad-actor law enforcement officials accountable. We need to expand law enforcement training that focuses on de-escalating conflicts and avoiding violence. We must work to ensure that all communities in Illinois have access to quality education, health care and mental health services. It is especially important that the state increases investments in programs that provide economic opportunities in our minority communities who have all too often been left behind.

4. Should the Legislature pass a law requiring all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras? Why or why not?

A law requiring body cameras should be part of a larger discussion to improve accountability for law enforcement officers. I support requiring body cameras. However, the state must avoid passing unfunded mandates and should work with law enforcement to help pay for such programs.

5. Federal prosecutors have revealed a comprehensive scheme of bribery, ghost jobs and favoritism in subcontracting by ComEd to influence the actions of House Speaker Michael Madigan. Who’s to blame? What ethics reforms should follow? Should Madigan resign?

I was not elected to protect the status quo, and I will not sit silently while the actions of our leaders undermine the integrity of our state government and our political system. The allegations against Speaker Madigan are troubling and have damaged the public’s trust to the point of no return. Although Speaker Madigan is entitled to due process of law in any criminal proceedings, those of us in public office must hold ourselves to a higher standard. If these allegations against Speaker Madigan are true, it is only right that he step down.

6. Please tell us about your civic work in the last two years, whether it’s legislation you have sponsored or work you have done in other ways to improve your community.

The first piece of legislation I passed with unanimous support, House Bill 3652, requires school counselors to inform students of all career options after high school, which includes technical school training. As higher education costs continue to rise, it’s vital that we equip young people with technical skills—that are in high demand—to be competitive in an ever-evolving economy. I worked with local and state officials to secure over $100 million for stormwater management. Flooding issues affect many of the residents in my district. Increased congestion at several of our train crossings is affecting the quality of life for my residents. I was pleased to work with IDOT to have a grade separation included in the recent capital plan. This major intersection improvement will decrease traffic congestion, and improve air quality for residents for years to come.

7. Please list three concerns that are specific to your district, such as a project that should be undertaken or a state policy related to an important local issue that should be revised.

1. Many small and large businesses have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 and will need continued support to successfully recover.

2. Mental health is overall health. Almost every family has been affected by mental health struggles. COVID-19 has another level of need for our community. I am working with local officials to address the mental health needs and find a long term solution.

3. Jobs of the future require a lot of technical skills. We need increased investment in our community colleges for technical and vocational opportunity so our citizens are better prepared for today’s economy.

8. What are your other top legislative priorities?

Families in Illinois have been faced with increasing property taxes for too long. Homeowners in Illinois deserve real property tax relief. In recent years, the state has taken steps forward by increasing funding for local schools, but more work remains. We need to examine ways to consolidate and streamline local government services to reduce the tax burden that is placed on homeowners.

9. What is your position on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax? Please explain.

I supported putting the Fair Tax on the ballot because I believe it is imperative for those paying the taxes to have a larger voice in tax reform. Illinois’ current tax structure is outdated and has contributed to the fiscal hole that our state finds itself in. However, it is vital that the Fair Tax is coupled with a reduction in spending.

10. Illinois continues to struggle financially, with a backlog of unpaid bills. In addition to a progressive state income tax — or in lieu of such a tax — what should the state do to pay its bills, meet its pension obligations and fund core services such as higher education?

There is no doubt that the state faces a financial crisis. Tough choices must be made and we must balance new revenue with spending cuts while preserving critical services that our most vulnerable residents rely on. These are discussions that need to be had without the partisan games and gridlock that have plagued our state for too long. I remain committed to working with every decision-maker who is committed to addressing the long-term fiscal challenges Illinois faces in a good-faith manner.

11. Should Illinois consider taxing the retirement incomes of its very wealthiest residents, as most states do? And your argument is?

I oppose any form of retirement tax. Seniors are living on tight budgets and many have already made long-term plans to retire based on their current retirement income. Any tax on retirement would jeopardize these plans and cause unduly harm to our seniors.

12. What can Illinois do to improve its elementary and high schools?

As a former teacher, ensuring that families in my district continue to have access to high quality education is one of my highest priorities. Many families choose to live in my district because of the strength of the public school. The quality of our schools is one of the greatest assets Illinois has and we must continue to provide the resources our schools need to train and retain quality educators and to help students in Illinois reach their fullest potential.

The COVID 19 crisis has highlighted the need to invest more in technology for schools and students to ensure the best educational outcomes possible. There can be a wide disparity between districts in access to technology and the state should help support school districts that need extra funding. Today, more than ever, our students need access to updated technology for learning and for preparation for employment success in our economy.

13. Mass shootings and gun violence plague America. What can or should the Legislature do, if anything, to address this problem in Illinois?

I was deeply affected by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and inspired by the students who rallied for change. As a teacher we practiced ‘active shooter drills’ with my elementary school students and I would feel sick to my stomach. Shortly after the Parkland shooting, talk shifted to teachers carrying firearms in the classroom. I decided right then, there had to be a better way. Our children appealed to the adults to help them and it was that voice of our youth that was one of the biggest motivating factors in spurring my decision to run for office. I support common-sense gun legislation such as closing the gun show loophole and requiring background checks for gun purchases.

14. Do you favor or oppose term limits for any elected official in Illinois? Please explain.

I support term limits for leadership.

15. Everybody says gerrymandering is bad, but the party in power in every state — Democrats in Illinois — resist doing anything about it. Or do we have that wrong? What should be done?

I support fair maps and even appeared recently at a press conference supporting them. Politicians should not be allowed to pick their voters through boundary changes. Voters should have the loudest voice to determine who represents them.

16. The U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago is investigating possible official corruption by state and local officials. This prompted the Legislature to pass an ethics reform measure to amend the Lobbyist Registration Act (SB 1639). It was signed into law in December. What’s your take on this and what more should be done?

While SB 1639 was a much-needed first step, clearly more work remains. I support additional ethics reforms such as closing the revolving door of legislators becoming lobbyists. At the time of this application I am planning to appear in a press conference to support several initiates for ethics reform in the legislature.

17. When people use the internet and wireless devices, companies collect data about us. Oftentimes, the information is sold to other companies, which can use it to track our movements or invade our privacy in other ways. When companies share this data, we also face a greater risk of identity theft. What should the Legislature do, if anything?

Companies must be held accountable if they engage in reckless data collecting and selling practices that result in consumers’ data falling into the hands of digital criminals. I support legislation similar to House Bill 4095 of the 100th General Assembly that protected consumers, who were victims of identity theft due to the 2017 data breach of the major credit agencies, from being charged fees to freeze their credit report.

18. The number of Illinois public high school graduates who enroll in out-of-state universities continues to climb. What can Illinois do to make its state universities more attractive to Illinois high school students?

Illinois must continue to invest in our public universities to ensure that they remain competitive. Additionally, I support increasing scholarships for our Illinois students who chose to continue their education at public higher education institutions in Illinois.

19. What is your top legislative priority with respect to the environment?

My top priority is to ensure that our families are able to breathe clean air and drink clean water. When a company negligently polluted communities in our area with the dangerous chemical, Ethylene oxide (ETO), I fought to ban the use of ETO and hold companies that pollute our neighborhoods that accountable.

Additionally, we need to ensure that Illinois remains a national leader in environmental protections and clean energy. I support investing in clean energy programs and jobs that reduce the reliance on fossil fuels. We must protect our air, land, and water to ensure that our future generations will have a sustainable planet.

20. What historical figure from Illinois, other than Abraham Lincoln (because everybody’s big on Abe), do you most admire or draw inspiration from? Please explain.

While Barack Obama was not born in Illinois I consider him ‘from’ here. It was after his book, Audacity of Hope that I became more involved in politics. Former President Obama wrote about getting a clipboard to gather signatures on issues you wanted to change. That’s exactly what I did. His message of not demonizing each other and finding common ground resonates with me today more than it did when I first read the book in 2007.

21. What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?

Grace and Frankie currently because it makes me laugh. Something I need to do more of.