New state senator sworn in to replace former Sen. Iris Martinez

Cristina Pacione-Zayas, who served as the associate vice president of policy at the Erikson Institute, was sworn in Monday night.

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Cristina Pacione-Zayas

Cristina Pacione-Zayas was sworn in to the Illinois Senate Monday night.

Erikson Institute

Members of the Cook County Democratic Party have filled the seat vacated by former state Sen. Iris Martinez.

Cristina Pacione-Zayas, who served as the associate vice president of policy at the Erikson Institute until this week, was sworn in Monday night after being selected by Cook County Democratic Party committee members.

The term ends in 2022.

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Pacione-Zayas was not immediately available for comment but told the Erikson Institute “it is an honor to serve in the Illinois State Senate and to represent the 20th district on the Northwest side of Chicago.

“I am especially thrilled about the prospect of applying child development science to policy making in the General Assembly,” Pacione-Zayas’ statement reads in part. “You can count on me to help fellow legislators ‘find the baby’ in the work, and to advance an anti-racist framework that dismantles systemic racism and economic exploitation so we can all thrive.”

Earlier this month, former Sen. Martinez said Pacione-Zayas was the candidate she wanted her fellow Cook County Democratic Party committee members to support.

“I think we’ve got ourselves a really good person who is committed to the neighborhood,” Martinez previously said.

Martinez gave up the Senate seat after becoming the first Latina elected to the clerk of the circuit courts, which puts her in charge of maintaining records for the country’s second-largest consolidated court system.

Pacione-Zayas earned a Ph.D. in educational policy studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is secretary of the board for the Illinois State Board of Education — a role she was appointed to last year by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

She is a former education director for the Latino Policy Forum and a culture of calm coordinator for Chicago Public Schools, a role she called “an amazing opportunity to really think about how schools” can serve the communities they’re in.

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