She Runs Illinois 2020! — Maura Hirschauer, candidate for IL House of Representatives, District 49

She Runs Illinois 2020! uplifting the voices of Illinois women running for office

She Votes Illinois is pleased to feature Maura Hirschauer, running for IL House of Representatives, District 49. Follow our series, She Runs Illinois 2020!, leading up to election day as we showcase and uplift the voices of Illinois women running for public office in the upcoming election.

Maura Hirschauer, candidate for IL House of Representatives, District 49
Maura Hirschauer, candidate for IL House of Representatives, District 49

Tell us about yourself

My name is Maura Hirschauer and I am a candidate for the Illinois House of Representatives in the 49th district. As the daughter of hardworking, lifelong public educators and union members, and a former elementary educator myself, I firmly believe that quality, equitable public education is the cornerstone of our society. My husband and I moved to the Fox Valley 10 years ago and are proud parents to three children in Batavia Public Schools, one starting Kindergarten this Fall, and the older two both at Rotolo Middle School.

I am not a career politician. I am a mother, a former elementary educator, and a community activist. I found my voice advocating for change as a leader of my local Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America group. Raising my voice — whether it be to keep guns out of our schools or to strengthen our federal background check laws — has become a way of life. Advocating for common sense gun reform drove me to pursue change on a larger scale. My commitment to education, dedication to community service, and strong belief in advocacy have led me to this moment. I am excited to bring empathetic leadership to the Illinois statehouse and to work hard for the people of the 49th district.

Candidate Maura Hirschauer with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America group.

Tell us about the women in your life

I can distinctly remember the first vote I ever cast; it was in 1984 and was a mock election in my first grade classroom. That day I checked a box for the first female vice president nominee in our history, Geraldine Ferraro. Even at the young age of seven, I remember feeling indignant and incredulous that there had never been a woman in that position before and I felt the importance of that moment. It is a memory that has stuck with me, and here we are, 36 years later, having made progress towards equity but with still much work to do.

I suppose the reason why the 1984 election was important to me was because it was important to the first feminist I ever knew; my mother. She set the bar high as she pursued a master’s degree while working as a waitress at night, and taking me to parks, libraries, and countless activities during the day. She quietly and resolutely went after her dream of helping students and families as a school guidance counselor. She built a successful 36 year career, topped off by a trip to the White House in 2015 to be honored with other counselors around the country as “School Counselor of the Year.” Through her example I learned how to lead with empathy, listen with compassion, and act with conviction. As she worked her way to the pinnacle of her career she showed me that motherhood and career advancement are not mutually exclusive.

In the fall of 2017 I was lucky enough to meet two fearless females who were poised to become leaders in our community. I met both Congresswoman Lauren Underwood and State Representative Karina Villa as they were embarking on their historic campaigns. I was blown away by their courage, compassion, and commitment to our community. They both exemplify the type of leadership our country is lacking: strong, empathetic, people-first leadership. As a volunteer on their campaigns I learned how to use my strengths, both as a teacher and a mother, to connect with voters. Being a part of the army of volunteers that helped Congresswoman Underwood and Representative Villa win was an honor and the catalyst for my own candidacy.

Candidate Maura Hirschauer with children holding women empowerment signs.

What led you into politics? Why are you running for THIS office?

Our 11 year old daughter, Maggie, is the most involved in my political career. She is my mini-me. After tagging along to countless Moms Demand Action meetings she set out on her own advocacy journey to tell state lawmakers about the impact of lockdown drills on students. Maggie attended our Moms Demand IL State Advocacy Day and spoke one-on-one with her state legislators, describing lockdown drills in detail and conveying the fear and anxiety that accompanies these procedures. Maggie’s speech caught the attention of our Congresswoman, Lauren Underwood, who invited her to Washington DC to share her remarks at a press conference alongside other members of Congress. She spoke passionately about the effects of active shooter drills in her school; about the jarring change from sitting quietly in the corner, to being taught the proper techniques in fighting back; or to stay in the bathroom and stand on a toilet if you are caught outside of the classroom.

As I watched her speak, literally standing in the shadow of the capital, I was awestruck by her bravery. I was proud, and yet, I was angry. Angry that we are relying on our children to speak truth to power. The list of brave young changemakers is ever growing: the students of Parkland, the young activists of Black Lives Matter, the incomparable Greta Thunberg. We are proud of their passion and grateful for their courage. But, they are CHILDREN and they should be free to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of youth. They should not have to scream from the rooftops for the adults in the room to take action. They deserve to have leaders who will listen with empathy to their ideas and take action. I am running to be one of those leaders. I will hold down the fort for our brave young activists, and for my own children, so that there will be a world for them to inherit, one that they can lead to a better future.

Though my children have inspired me to run, I hold the needs of all the children in the 49th district close to my heart. Our most vulnerable children and their families are left behind by an educational system that is not based in equity. Today, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that has school districts in Illinois responding in a variety of different ways, that inequity is laid bare. As we progress through the pandemic the achievement gap is growing wide and deep. For our most vulnerable kids it will become a chasm. It is critical, as we navigate life amidst a global pandemic, that we elect leaders who will speak for the voiceless, lead with empathy, and act with conviction to protect and improve the quality of life for every community.

Recognizing that COVID19 has hit state and local budgets hard, where would you reduce/eliminate spending to ensure pressing needs are answered?

The economic, physical, and emotional impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt throughout our state and country. Together, guided by the priorities that we hold dear, we can rebuild our communities to be strong, equitable, and inclusive. With dependable leadership in Springfield we will ensure that every Illinoisan has access to quality healthcare, including mental healthcare. We will expand paid family leave, and medical and parental leave, improving the quality of life for families across our state. We will fix our antiquated tax structure and guarantee that our public schools get the funding and resources they need to thrive.

As an advocate for the hard working people of the 49th District I would have to analyze the financial repercussions any reduction in spending would have on middle-class families and their access to crucial services. Any reduction in spending would have to safeguard against a rise in property taxes or a curtailment of services for middle-class families.

Have you participated in any BLM protests? What influenced your decision?

Yes, my family and I attended three local BLM protests, in Geneva, Aurora, and our hometown of Batavia. Our black friends and neighbors are hurting, a deep aching that runs the length of lifetimes. It is important to bear witness to their hurt and anger. Listening with compassion has never been more critical than it is right at this moment. This movement cannot end when the protests disperse, we must continue to stand for justice.

I stand with the black community. I will work every day to make sure black voices are heard, and most importantly that they have a seat at the table in the 49th district. I will fight for anti-racist policies in policing and criminal justice. There is much work to be done to ensure equity in access to jobs, education, healthcare, and housing. My heart, my eyes, and my ears are open. I am here to do the hard work.

How will you ensure that women and femmes sitting at intersections of oppression are prioritized for policy that will help their quality of life?

As a parent, educator, community activist, and human living in this beautifully diverse state, I believe in the inherent worth of all people regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, or socioeconomic status. I promise to be a leader that shows up and fights hard to protect the civil rights of all Illinoisans.

There are many factors that contribute to the oppression of women and femmes. It is manifested in homelessness caused by discriminatory housing practices and familial rejection of minors; unfair hiring policies that lead to un- or under-employment; prejudice in the healthcare system and the difficulty LGBTQ people face finding educated, accepting providers; and the inability of LGBTQ students to access safe, high quality education. We must do better for the LGBTQ community, women, and femmes. Illinois has strong anti-discrimination laws, and we must be vigilant to ensure that they are widely understood, enforced, and protected from repeal.

It is also important to examine the ways in which LBTQ women are disproportionately affected by economic injustice. LBTQ women of color are especially harshly affected by employment discrimination and economic insecurity. Lawmakers need to understand the inequalities within the LGBTQ communities and look for ways to protect and empower LBTQ women, especially LBTQ women of color. As a legislator I will fight for strong legal protections of LGBTQ rights.

Candidate Maura Hirschauer with family.

What do you wish you had known before you decided to run for office?

One year ago my family and I sat down together to make a big decision: should Mommy run for office? My husband and children rang out resounding cheers of yes, they were behind me from the very beginning. For me, the decision was anxiety ridden, filled with feelings of insecurity and fear. I wish I had known then that the support I felt from my family would be reflected back in my friends, colleagues, and neighbors. This year has been filled with new friendships and partnerships forged over a belief in a new style of leadership, one based in empathy, equity, and justice. I wish I had known that my candidacy would be championed by supportive mentors and fearless women who believe in me and my ability to lead. The popular saying “Empowered women empower women” is one hundred percent true!

Closing comments

These days, nothing is certain. But the values that continue to guide us remain strong. In the midst of a global pandemic, when small businesses are struggling to survive, and people are out of work, distanced from friends, neighbors and loved ones, it’s hard to see a clear path through the chaos. But I see a path that’s rooted in our shared values of equity, dignity, and justice.

In this moment, we must fight to protect and expand access to quality healthcare including mental healthcare. We must fully fund education to ensure that students, teachers, and families have the necessary tools and services they need to be safe and successful. We must support our senior friends and neighbors and protect the essential services that help us thrive.

You can count on my dependable leadership in Springfield. I am not a career politician. I am running to put people first for a change. My values are rooted in our community and I am committed to bringing your voice, and the voices of your families with me to Springfield.

If you would like to learn more about Maura Hirschauer and her platform or volunteer for her campaign, please check out her website at votemaura.com. Don’t forget to follow her on social media @votemaura . Reach out today and help make a difference in the upcoming 2020 election.

(The information contained in this post is provided only as general information and does not imply an endorsement by She Votes Illinois.)

She Votes Illinois is a statewide political action committee dedicated to facilitating engagement, participation & support of women in all aspects of politics.