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Rep. Mary Flowers removed from leadership after saying staff member resembled Hitler

A Black woman wearing a light colored suit speaks into a microphone surrounded by colleagues in an opulent room
Alex Degman
State Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) speaks on the Illinois House floor on May 9, 2023

The longtime Chicago Democrat called her removal “petty,” noting no one filed a complaint against her.

A longtime Democratic state representative has been removed from Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch’s legislative leadership team.

State Rep. Mary Flowers of Chicago believes it’s because she told a House staff member he resembled Adolf Hitler. She said his appearance that day made her feel uncomfortable and disrespected.

“This is my workplace. I was stunned when I walked in and saw this young man looking like Hitler,” Flowers said of the staffer, whom she did not name. She said she also asked him about the look directly, to which he laughed.

Jaclyn Driscoll, a spokesperson for Welch, said Flowers was removed for “reasons that have been communicated to her.”

“Due to Leader Flowers’ refusal to meet and discuss her conduct toward members and staff, the Speaker has taken the additional step to remove her from [his] leadership team effective May 31,” Driscoll said.

“This is so petty it’s ridiculous,” Flowers told WBEZ, accusing Welch of not following established protocol. “There’s a process. There’s an [Office of Executive Inspector General] process, and whoever my accuser is, is supposed to go fill out a form.”

While OEIG oversees complaints for agencies that fall under the governor’s purview, someone making a complaint against a state representative would likely go through the Legislative Inspector General, or LIG.

The flashpoint comes as the spring legislative session gets more contentious, especially within the House Democratic caucus, as the May 19 adjournment date approaches. While the state sees its predicted surpluses shrink as next fiscal year’s financial picture becomes more clear, Democrats are facing a smaller and smaller pie to fund their priorities like expanded early childhood education and healthcare for undocumented immigrants. Plus a couple dozen members of the Speaker’s research and appropriations team are asking for union recognition.

While Flowers will lose her leadership position she’ll maintain her House seat.

“As I told the speaker, I took one oath: and that’s to uphold the constitution. And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing the last 40 years – upholding the constitution of the state of Illinois for my constituents,” Flowers said.

Alex Degman is a Statehouse reporter with WBEZ.
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