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Karla Bailey-Smith wants a 'do-over' in her bid for an Illinois House seat

A former Illinois House candidate hopes a more favorable map for Democrats will help her win election next year.

Karla Bailey-Smith of Bloomington has announced plans to run in the 91st Illinois House District. It will include much of Bloomington-Normal and would stretch along Interstate 74 northwest to East Peoria.

Bailey-Smith, a small business owner and Democratic Precinct committeeperson, lost to veteran incumbent Keith Sommer in the 88th District race last year.

“I wanted a do-over because running a political campaign during a pandemic is so difficult, having to switch everything to digital. We were told not to knock on doors,” Bailey-Smith said, adding those restrictions made it especially difficult to run against an established incumbent.

Bailey-Smith announced her campaign slogan is “Vision for Values."

She said she wanted to announce early since it could be a crowded primary next June. Illinois Democrats who drew the maps following the 2020 census created an opportunity for the party to gain a legislative seat in Bloomington-Normal, a community that previously had been split more evenly and helped Republicans, including Sommer and Rep. Dan Brady, consistently sail to victory.

“We haven’t seen anybody representing us in Springfield who cares about the social issues, the civil rights issues that I care about,” Bailey-Smith said.

Bailey called Illinois a “progressive leader” and cited several recent measures she advocated for that became law, including the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act and the criminal justice bill that ends cash bail, among other reforms.

“I would like to be on the other side of the desk, promoting this legislation, not just attending a lobbying meeting as a constituent,” she said.

When asked how to address Illinois’ population loss, Bailey-Smith responded by saying Illinois should consider closing corporate tax loopholes. Republicans have argued the state’s higher taxes have consistently driven residents and businesses out of Illinois. The state has lost at least one representative in Congress in eight of the last nine decades due to population loss compared with other states.

Bailey-Smith didn’t offer any other recommendations to address the population loss. “I don’t know how to answer that question,” she replied. After a follow-up, Bailey-Smith said people who leave Illinois in search of a lower tax burden will likely find a lower quality of life. “They might find their quality of life, their access to affordable and quality health care and public services is not the same as in Illinois,” she added.

McLean County was one of nine out of 102 Illinois counties that added population in the 2020 census.

Former Bloomington mayor Tari Renner said in June he was considering a bid for the 91st District. Renner said he is still considering running, but he said Bailey-Smith's announcement “will have absolutely no effect upon my decision.”

There will be no incumbent on the ballot. No Republicans have announced plans to run for the seat.

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