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Tazewell County treasurer Burress joins race for House’s 87th District

Mary Burgess

A Republican primary is shaping up for an open Illinois House seat for the district that covers much of the territory currently represented by retiring state Rep. Keith Sommer.

Third-term Tazewell County Treasurer Mary Burress announced her candidacy for the redrawn 87th District seat late Sunday, becoming the second GOP candidate to launch a bid.

“I want to see change in Springfield,” said Burress. “I know it can't come just from me, but I want to take my budgeting experience, my common sense, honesty and integrity to Springfield and be that strong voice that we so desperately need.”

Burress joins Morton physician Bill Hauter, a Tazewell County Board member, in the race to represent the 87th that covers portions of Tazewell, McLean, Logan, Sangamon, Macon, DeWitt counties and a small section of southern Woodford County.

“I feel that strong voice that I have, that strong community connection that I have sets me apart from my opponents,” she said. “I just feel that will take me far in what Springfield really needs: protecting our own community, standing up for our own community, fighting to keep businesses and people instead of running them out of the state of Illinois.”

Touting her 11 years of experience at keeping Tazewell County’s books, Burress said she’s focused on bringing more fiscal responsibility to state government and reversing economic policies she believes are driving residents out of state.

“We've got to have more like-minded people like myself to stand up and fight for what is right,” she said. “That is not working for the state of Illinois; tax after tax after tax is not working for the state of Illinois.”

The widow of a 30-year Pekin police officer, Burress also said she wants to work toward improving public safety and stopping what she sees as unethical actions in the General Assembly.

“We need to stand up and support our officers, the men and women who are our protection,” she said. “And we need to we need to stop the corruption, like passing the ‘SAFE-T’ (police reform) bill at 4 o'clock in the morning. They pushed it through when all the legislators, they had to be exhausted. That's corruption at its finest.”

Like Hauter, Burress said she is opposed to COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

“I do feel that it is up to the person and their doctor,” she said. “Yes, I believe that the vaccines work. But I also feel very strongly that someone should not lose their job if their company says you're either going to get vaccinated or not. If they have religious beliefs or a medical issue, I feel it is up to the individual.”

In 2020, Burress lost a challenge to longtime state Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, earning 46% of the vote.

“I worked very hard. I was up against the 15-year incumbent of the opposite party,” said Burress. “I'm still going to run on my honesty, my integrity, my character, my experience. I truly believe I would still take that same belief, same drive, same integrity in this race.”

Sommer, R-Mackinaw, who previously represented the 88th House District that featured mostly rural areas between Peoria and Bloomington-Normal, opted to retire instead of running in the new district that stretches farther south.

“Rep. Sommer and I go back a long way. I've worked for Tazewell County for 38 years, and early on, I was a clerk and Mr. Sommer was our recorder of deeds,” she said. “He would bring his revenue into the office, and I sat in front of this huge, beautiful vault,. and he would say, ‘There's Mary guarding Tazewell County's money.’ That started our working relationship.

“But to say I would do anything differently (from Sommer), I don't know everything that he said or every vote that he did. I will vote for what my constituents need.”

Candidates can begin filing petitions for the 2022 ballot on March 7. The primary is scheduled for June 28 and the general election is Nov. 8.

Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.