Young Karla at Christmas
young Karla in library, newspaper clip

 Karla Bailey-Smith spent her childhood in Indiana and grew up in Moline, Illinois, as the daughter of an American Baptist Minister. Her upbringing was rooted in Midwestern and Christian values. She was taught the value of hard work and the importance of community.

Karla on graduation day

As a member of the LGBTQ community and as a woman, my very existence is political, and fighting for our rights is a constant in my life.”

                            Karla Bailey-Smith

Karla began fighting for our rights in 1993 during the “March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual rights.”  

Karla L & G Immigration Task Force
Karla with sign "Return the Children"

Recently, Karla advocated for a Welcoming Cities Ordinance, which was a call to keep families together.

In the 1990’s Karla was a member of the union United Scenic Artists Local 829, and painted scenery for film, TV and Broadway. She wants to fight for the unions to ensure more people can experience the same benefits of fair wages, safety training, and regulated hours she had as a union member.

Karla attended Illinois Wesleyan University, earning a BFA in Design and Technology for Theatre, and went on to gain an MFA in Scenic Design for Theatre from U of I in Champaign-Urbana.  

Theatre is all about collaboration and creative problem solving, and Karla wants to bring those visionary skills to Springfield. 

Karla at the US Capitol, Gay Rights March in 1993

Karla’s partner of 15 years was a UK citizen. They met at a summer theatre camp, and her partner stayed in the USA, becoming an undocumented immigrant. This experience was a powerful incentive to fight for Marriage Equality and Immigration reform. Karla still has a deep empathy for people who want to be with the person they love, and for those seeking a better or safer future.  

Karl with sign-Blono and families
Karla spraying a concrete surface onto a styrofoam sculpture
Karla and her young son in London, 2009

Karla moved to London in 2000 so that she and her partner could have recognition as a couple. While in London, Karla enjoyed good public transportation, Health Care for all, free pre-k, and an effective social safety net. 

In 2010, Karla moved back to Bloomington to raise her son with her longtime best friend. She very quickly learned that her husband, a Type One diabetic, had medical debt. The cost to keep him alive each month was the equivalent of a mortgage, and they also had to pay for quality Pre-K. Karla has a vision that our communities will not be burdened by these extremely high costs of essential needs. Karla resumed her advocacy for Marriage Equality, and supported the efforts to pass the Affordable Care Act. 

Karla and family
A picture of Karla’s son Kai, in first grade

When the massacre of Sandy Hook occured in December of 2012, Karla was riddled with guilt. Guilt that she had taken her son from a country where these events do not occur, guilt that she was able to bring her child home while other families children were senselessly murdered at their school. This inspired Karla to take action and demand common sense gun legislation.

In 2017 and 2018, Karla worked to pass the ERA in Illinois.

Karla at a rally for the ERA, holding a clipboard
Karla at reproductive rights rally

In 2017, we marched for Reproductive rights, and Karla made phone calls, wrote postcards, and lobbied for HB40, for the 2019 Reproductive Health Act, and most recently, the repeal of Parental Notification and passing the Keeping Youth Safe and Healthy Act, which sets standards for inclusive and comprehensive personal health, safety and age appropriate sex education.

As a member of the League of Women Voters, Karla attends dialogue sessions to discuss issues in a non-partisan forum. These experiences have been very valuable, and she is currently in a working group exploring a legislative issue. 

Karla at a League of Women Voters booth
Karla and her young teenage son at the Capitol in Springfield

In May of 2019, Karla and her son attended the Equality Illinois Advocacy Day to lobby for the LGBTQ Inclusive Curriculum bill, which was passed and signed that year.

Karla also traveled to Springfield to lobby for the Fair Tax initiative and solar incentives, part of the CEJA package that finally passed in summer of 2021. Her team happened to catch Representative Sommer in a stairwell!

Karla at a lobby meeting in Springfield
Karla in the cafeteria at the Illinois State Capitol

Through Karla’s church and a local network of organizations, she became involved with the initiative to End Cash Bail, which led them to join the Illinois Network for PreTrial Justice. The rally pictured was in February of 2020, and the omnibus criminal justice reform bill, HB163, was passed in January of 2021. 

Karla advocated, rallied and lobbied for CEJA until a bill finally passed, the Clean Equitable Jobs Act, a groundbreaking law that set a timeline for ending the use of fossil fuel power plants in Illinois, as well as incentivizing jobs for people of color in the clean energy jobs sector.  

Karla at Black Lives Matter rallies

Karla has been a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement since the killing of Michael Brown, and advocated for a BLM sign at her church. After the murder of George Floyd, Karla joined many rallies that summer, and continues to work for criminal justice reforms and pubic safety intiatives.

Karla at Black Lives Matter rallies

We deserve a representative that gives us value for our hard earned tax dollars. We need someone who will not only answer our phone calls, but someone who will SHOW UP, who will be active and engaged with our community, and who will provide constituent services. Karla will fight for all of these things as your State Representative. It’s time for all of the 91st district to have a Vision for Values!!