Toi Hutchinson’s first brush with electoral politics was a bust. Hutchinson was steeped in local politics and had worked on several campaigns. But when she took on an incumbent in a race for her local township supervisor, she lost.
But the day after the election, a state senator called and asked Hutchinson to be her chief of staff. A few years later, when the senator won a seat in the U.S. House, Hutchinson took her place. As a Democrat, Hutchinson held onto the seat in her first election as an incumbent, even during the Republican wave of 2010. She’s won re-election ever since.
Hutchinson has seen Illinois’ tremendous financial challenges up close as the head of the Senate Revenue Committee. She’s assuming a national role as well, as the incoming president-elect of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Hutchinson is keenly aware of her role as a role model for other women, and African-American women in particular. “You have to have other women in the room to advocate. If there’s only one woman in the room, it’s easy to get outvoted. I want to make sure I’m not the last woman to get in that room,” she says.