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Tazewell County Treasurer Mary Burress runs for 87th House District in GOP primary

Tazewell County Treasurer Mary Burress previously ran for Illinois state senate.
Mary Burress
Tazewell County Treasurer Mary Burress previously ran for Illinois Senate.

Redistricting has created an open seat in central Illinois for the House of Representatives, and the battle between experience and fresh perspectives is on in the Republican primary.

The new 87th District includes portions of Tazewell, McLean, Logan, Sangamon, Macon, and DeWitt counties.

Mary Burress is one of two Republican candidates for the newly drawn House seat. She is a longtime Tazewell County treasurer who tried unsuccessfully to unseat Peoria’s Democratic State Sen. Dave Koehler in the last election cycle.

She faces Dr. Bill Hauter, an emergency physician in Peoria, who said he prides himself on being new to politics.

Both Burress and Hauter say they are pro-life, an especially relevant position for conservative voters following the leaked Supreme Court draft planning to overturn Roe v. Wade. Burress said that she would only support abortion if it was necessary for the health of the mother, but not in the case of rape or incest.

“I think that there's a reason for that life to be there. And I think maybe that child would come up to be one of the most pro-life people in the state of Illinois,” Burress said.

Burress cites her 12 years of experience with county budgets as a reason voters should send her to the House. She said she believes that Springfield needs more lawmakers with experience reading, balancing, and staying within budget, which all fall under her purview as county treasurer.

During her tenure, Burress has worked full-time as treasurer. She said that if elected, she would work full-time as a representative as well.

“I think the voters need to know that it's too large of an area, too many people to represent, to just do it on a part-time basis,” said Burress.

Beyond fixing the state’s budget, Burress said she is deeply concerned about what’s being taught in Illinois schools. She said control of curriculum should be in the hands of the districts, rather than statewide curriculum designated by laws such as the comprehensive sex education codification in 2021.

Burress said her grandchildren experience “inappropriate” sex education in schools, and that she hears examples of inappropriate sex education from her grandchildren who attend public schools. She said she is against “gender counseling” in public schools, but could not specify if that actually occurs. Burress said she also opposes putting female hygiene products in boys bathrooms, which is required by law in grades 4-12.

Burress declined to give further specific examples of her concerns with public schools without talking more with her grandchildren. When asked if her beliefs in school curriculum aligned with the national conservative push against the idea of critical race theory, Burress did not answer.

Burress will face Dr. Bill Hauter in the Republican primary June 28. Early voting begins May 19.

Maggie Strahan is a Public Affairs Reporting program intern for WGLT and WCBU.