Illinois State Representative Theresa Mah made history in 2016 when she became the first Asian American elected to serve in the Illinois General Assembly. Representative Mah is a former college professor with a Ph.D. in modern American history and teaching experience in history, ethnic studies, and Asian American studies. Born in San Francisco, California, and a graduate of UC Berkeley, Rep. Mah first came to Illinois for graduate studies at the University of Chicago more than 25 years ago.
As a senior advisor in former Governor Pat Quinn’s administration, she worked with legislators, Cabinet members, and co-workers at state agencies on efforts to improve diversity and minority representation in state government. Rep. Mah was instrumental in drafting the first Asian American Employment Plan. She worked with advocacy groups on a variety of issues such as immigrant rights, workers rights, voting rights, language access, and health care.
Prior to her position in the Governor’s Office, she worked with advocacy and community-based organizations, initially with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) and then Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community (CBCAC). At CBCAC, she was instrumental in efforts to increase voter registration, voter education and turn-out; increasing the voting power of the Chinese American community through redistricting; advocating for a new Chinatown library and fieldhouse; preventing the closure of the Chinatown Post Office; and educating community members to become more involved in lobbying their elected officials on various issues.
Rep. Mah also serves as an elected Community Representative on the Local School Council at Thomas Kelly High School, where she has been a strong proponent of bilingual education, civic engagement, and the pursuit of higher education. Along with Bridgeport Alliance, she was deeply involved with their successful effort to restore CTA bus service along 31st Street. She serves on the Advisory Boards of the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago and the Global Asian Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
In the General Assembly Rep. Mah serves on the Committees on K-12 Education Appropriations, Environmental Justice, and Health Care Licenses, among others. During her first term, Rep. Mah successfully passed legislation in the areas of civil rights, consumer protection, language access, and immigrant rights. More recently, she has been appointed to the State of Illinois’ Complete Count Commission, whose mission is to ensure the accurate count of all populations during the 2020 Census.