Former political science professor and current healthcare researcher Maggie Trevor is running in opposition to incumbent Republican Tom Morrison in the 54th District. A Democrat, Trevor is unopposed in her primary. Trevor is also an out lesbian. Windy City Times spoke with Trevor on the phone and over email in late January and early February.
Windy City Times: Talk about your background and what inspired you to run for office.
Maggie Trevor: I was born and raised right here in Rolling Meadows. I went to the public schools here, went to college at University of Chicago, got a Bachelor's, Masters and PhD there, then went into academia, political sciences, and taught at University of Iowa for a number of years. My background is in American politics and survey research. I left University of Iowa in 1999, went into market research, and moved out to California, where I lived for about fifteen years. Most of my employment there was in the Healthcare industry. I worked for Kaiser Permanente, the big HMO out there, and Blue Shield of California. I ended up moving back here and starting my own firm doing custom market research, mostly for the healthcare industry.
I've always been sort of an outside viewer of politics; it was my profession for many years. My mother was a political activist in the Northwest Suburbs when I was growing up so I was always very familiar with what was going on during my childhood. When I was a kid, even the Republicans out here were more socially liberal, economically conservative moderate Republicans. When I moved back here, I found out that I was being represented by Tom Morrison, and the more I found out about him, the more appalled I was, particularly at the whole transgender debate over Fremd High School.
I know that Tom Morrison is way too conservative even for the Republicans in this area. It just galls me that he represents me, and that that this is outsiders' view of what the Northwest suburbs is like. I tried to run in 2016, when I found out who he was and what he was about and that he didn't have an opponent, but there's a two-year residency requirement in the state legislature. I moved back right around New Year's on 2015. It wasn't enough time to run against him in the 2016 election, so I decided to run this time.
I'm not just running against Tom Morrison. There are things I want to do, and my background in healthcare on the business side I think is really relevant, given what's going on at the federal level. I know how the healthcare marketplace works, and my critical issue here is to make sure that we continue to have access to affordable health here, regardless of what happens to the Affordable Care Act at the federal level. Not only make sure we have an individual market, but that we also have the clinic system within the state of Illinois that supports the number of patients that need access to healthcare, which is something that was dramatically affected by the budget crisis.
WCT: Describe the 54th district and its makeup.
MT: I think the last Democrat elected here was in the 70s and 80s. Because it was such a majority Republican district, the democratic organization out in the northwest suburbs never paid much attention to it. The real contest was always in the Republican primary. In 2010, which is the year of the Tea Party Movement, Tom Morrison challenged [moderate incumbent] Susie Bassie in the primary and won. Things have changed since then, not only just what we're seeing now, not only just with this surge in activism that was brought about by the 2016 elections. I think the demographics of the northwest suburbs has been changing dramatically over the past ten years, particularly Palatine and Rolling Meadows, both of those areas. Palatine before the 1950s was a little farming town of more than 4,000 people. Most of the housing was built in the 1950s and 1960s, and a lot of people moved out here, my parents included,and stayed in those houses until they passed away. There has been a lot of turnover in the population. It has become more diverse. There are a lot more young people with families that moved here from the city for the same reasons that my parents moved here 60, 70 years ago. It's a nice place to raise kids: good schools, and also easy commute to the city. If you look at how this area has voted over the past few election cycles, it's become increasingly Democratic. I'm running not only because I don't like Tom Morrison and I think i can do something in Springfield, I'm running because I think I can win.
WCT: What are the biggest issues in your district?
MT: The incumbent is a big issue. Healthcare is a big issue. I think taxes here are a big issue as well. We need to move to a progressive income tax, which of course needs a constitutional amendment. We need to do it in a way that still protects funding for public schools, so that's the other big issue, I think.
WCT: Since you've recently moved back, what are your connections to political groups and organizations?
MT: I don't have much connection to the folks in Springfield. I have been involved since I've been back in some of the local political organizations. I've been engaged with Brown Bag Progressives here, which is a group that is involved with many different groups that meet here in the Northwest suburbs. I'm on the committee for the greater Palatine area democrats. I volunteered in various causes as I've moved from place to place to place over the years. I have some experience volunteering in city government, I sit on the environmental committee and the traffic committee for the city of Rolling Meadows. I'm not a novice to either how campaigns work or how government works, but this is the first time I've run for office.
WCT: What's your connection to the LGBTQ community?
MT: I have a lot of friends in the community, but I've just started to get involved here. When I was in the Bay Area I was involved with a couple of organizations. I volunteered for BACW, which at the time that I moved there was the big lesbian social organization out there. I was on its board of directors for a number of years, I served as President for 10 months in the early 2000s. I volunteered for Lyon-Martin health services there. When I taught at University of Iowa I was involved in the LGBTQ community there. I was on the board of Prairie Voices Productions, which put together the Iowa Women's Music Festival. I was also on the advisory board for Women's Resource in Action Center, which is a women's center on the University of Iowa. They were not specifically LGBT, but they were very LGBT friendly and connected to that community.
WCT: What do you feel like the biggest issue facing the LGBTQ community is at this point?
MT: I still think it's employment discrimination. In Illinois we have in better than in most places, I think we've made great progress socially, and the changes in the past 20 years have been amazing, but there are still places where people can get fired, and that has to change. Everything else kind of sits on that. As long as people can still lose their livelihoods anywhere in the US, that needs to be the fight. I think we can't lose sight of protecting the gains that we've made, which is why I look at Tom Morrison and think I can't abide by him representing me, he has to be challenged. People don't take him seriously, people don't take what he does in the legislature seriously because they don't think it has a chance, but I think you need to take a look at what's just happened over the past year at the federal level and think, you can lose ground very quickly under the wrong set of circumstances. But I also don't think we should just retrench and guard the gains that we have, we have to look at ending employment discrimination.
WCT: What you would do on the state level to protect employees and potential hires, particularly trans and gender noncomforming ones, from discrimination?
MT: Illinois has among the strongest protections against this type of discrimination. Our state is one of only 20 that currently have anti-discrimination laws in place that address both sexual orientation and gender identity for both public and private employers. This is especially important given the current administration's stance that federal civil rights protections against sex discrimination do not apply to transgender persons. Some estimate that half of those who identify as LGBTQ in the US live without adequate protections against employment discrimination. The Illinois Human Rights Act provides those protections in Illinois in the absence of clear protection at the federal level.
As a state legislator, I will work to safeguard The Illinois Human Rights Act from attempts to weaken its protections, for instance by opposing legislative efforts to carve out broader exemptions to these protections based on premise of protecting the religious beliefs of employers.
WCT: What would be first on the agenda if you were to get to Springfield?
MT: A lot of it depends on who else gets elected. And some of what I want to do is what people are pushing already. I want to make sure that we protect healthcare, and there has been some movement on that already. We still need to deal with the fact that the recent federal tax bill just knocked out one of the legs of the stool for the individual healthcare market and the mandate. I would like to see something done on that at the state level. I think we need to research what Massachusetts did and research what would be effective here. My guess is that the Illinois marketplace will probably survive this, but still we need to make sure that we have some kind of tax incentive for people to buy insurance to make sure young healthy people enrolled as well as older, sicker people so that healthcare premiums don't explode here in Illinois.
I'm hoping by the time I get there the Equal Rights Amendment will have passed, that's another thing I want to make sure happens. I want to make sure that we start the ball rolling on a constitutional amendment to make sure that we can put some kind of tax reform where the wealthy pay their fair share in Illinois, which is currently not true.
WCT: As an out LGBTQ legislator, would you be looking to caucus with other LGBTQ lawmakers?
MT: As an out LGBTQ legislator, yes, I would be looking to caucus with other legislators. I had a conversation with Rep. Greg Harris during the early stages of my campaign where we discussed the growing potential of forming such a caucus as the number of out LGBTQ legislators grows, and we would be looking at this as a possibility after the election.
WCT: Any final thoughts?
MT: Living in the Bay Area and coming back to the Northwest suburbs, I'm amazed at the very large, very vibrant LGBT community here. It's amazing, the changes in the suburbs.