Welcome to the Prairie State: A Panel Discussion with State Representatives

Lecture Series

December 6, 2017

6:30PM - 8:00PM

Coulter Lounge

Join us for the Prairie State Society's inaugural lecture, which will introduce the University of Chicago community to the Prairie State Society (PSS), one of Harris School of Public Policy’s newest student organizations. The event will feature state representatives Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) and Theresa Mah (D-Chicago) in conversation with recently retired Assistant Majority Leader in the Illinois General Assembly, Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook). Moderated by student Patrick Hanley, the panel discussion will address the unique and influential characteristics of the Prairie State including: geographic and demographic divisions in state politics, political culture of Springfield, and governing under a strong partisan establishment at a time of unprecedented and bipartisan anti-establishment momentum. 


Will Guzzardi is the state representative from the 39th District, which includes parts of Logan Square, Avondale, Hermosa, Belmont Cragin and Portage Park neighborhoods in Chicago. He’s been in the legislature since January of 2015. At age 30, he’s one of the youngest members of the Illinois House and one of the leading progressive voices in Illinois politics. He introduced and passed the $15 minimum wage legislation in the Illinois House (before it was vetoed by Gov. Rauner). He has introduced legislation for free tuition at public universities for every Illinois student. He has fought for and passed major reforms to the criminal justice system, protections for immigrants, expanded rights for LGBT Illinoisans, and transformational new clean energy policies.
Theresa Mah is the state representative in the 2nd District of the Illinois State Legislature, a district that includes large portions of the Bridgeport, Chinatown, Pilsen, and McKinley Park neighborhoods. A former professor and University of Chicago Graduate, Mah served as a senior advisor to former Gov. Pat Quinn. Prior to her position in the Governor’s Office, she spent several years working in the area of immigrant rights, initially with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) and then in the Chinatown community and to improve the conditions, community resources, access to elected officials, and voting power of the immigrant community there. Elected in 2017, Mah is the first Asian-American to serve in the state legislature in Illinois
Elaine Nekritz recently resigned after serving 15 years in the Illinois State Legislature. She represented portions of several of Chicago’s north and northwest suburbs. She served as Assistant Majority Leader in the House as well as Chair of the House Judiciary Civil Law Committee and the House Personnel and Pensions Committee. Nekritz focused her legislative work on solutions to the state's fiscal problems, particularly pension underfunding. She was committed to a blend of reforms, spending cuts and revenues to address Illinois' budget woes and backlog of unpaid bills.

This event is free and open to the public.