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State Senate Race: Mary Ann Sullivan (District 36)



NUVO: Introduce yourself in 200 words or less.

I am an Indianapolis native who grew up on the city's east side, raised my family in Irvington, and currently live downtown. I have been married to my husband, Brian, for 35 years and we have three children. Additionally, I am the proud grandmother of three beautiful grandchildren.

Professionally, I have worked in and around the field of public education for over twenty years, and have a master's degree in public policy. Over the course of my career, I have worked for IPS, the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, the Indiana Department of Education, the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation, and the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning. Making sure that every child, regardless of wealth or geographic location, has access to a quality education has been a big part of my career and is a central focus of my work at the statehouse.

I had never considered running for public office, but was encouraged to do so by friends and family because of my interest in progressive public policy and grassroots advocacy/neighborhood development. Although the Indiana General Assembly can be a challenging environment, I look forward to continuing to work hard for the people of Senate District 36.

NUVO: Describe your district, name some features that make it special or unique.

Senate District 36 is a wonderfully diverse district that includes the center of the city, the IUPUI campus, near downtown neighborhoods, Homecroft, Southport, and parts of Greenwood and Center Grove. The district is unique because of this extreme diversity. There is no such thing as a "typical" district 36 neighborhood. One of the most interesting and exciting challenges of representing this district, is being able to identify the assets and address the problems of such distinct areas. That may mean working on abandoned housing issues in Bates Hendricks, advocating for better inclusion of the Chin community in Southport, finding ways to revitalize the neighborhoods surrounding UIndy, expanding the presence of IUPUI in the center city, and improving roads and sidewalks in suburban south side communities.

NUVO: List three serious issues facing your district and note how they would translate to your legislative priorities.

Not in a particular order:

* The revitalization of near downtown business corridors, such as Madison Ave., and adjacent communities. A key support for meeting this challenge is to move forward on mass transit. I am a passionate advocate for mass transit, and I fervently believe that a robust transit system is critical to the future growth and stability of south side and downtown neighborhoods.

* Continued support for high quality public education opportunities for every neighborhood. As an advocate for many of the recent education reforms, I will closely monitor those reforms and work to make any needed improvements. My front porch conversations with residents of the district have confirmed that finding well-paying jobs is still a big challenge. I will prioritize investments in education, from pre-K through re-training of adult workers in new careers, so we can fill the skills gap and better match talents with need.

* Maintaining an attractive, engaging urban core and competitive business environment.

I will oppose efforts to make our city unwelcoming. This means fighting against institutionalizing hate in our state constitution, discrimination towards new immigrants, and regressive policies for women's health. If Indianapolis is going to compete in a global economy, we cannot enact public policies that limit the ability of employers to attract the best and brightest to our city. As a state with an aging population, it is particularly important that we are able to attract younger people. Younger people want to live in creative, inclusive cities with low costs of living and high levels of opportunity.

NUVO: If you could provide one element of constructive criticism about the 2012 General Assembly, what would it be?

My constructive criticism would be that leadership at all levels should have had more confidence in their mainstream members to work together. We could have accomplished so much more.

NUVO: How you do think an extended era of solid Republican control over the General Assembly will influence legislators' work at the Statehouse? Could you comment on how you envision bi-partisanship and checks and balances functioning in this environment?

While I am discouraged by the prospect of an extended era of Republican control, I am not a defeatist by nature. I believe that there are plenty of good ideas that can garner bipartisan support, if individual legislators are willing to assert themselves within their caucus and to their leadership. My sense is that many legislators are tired of the extreme partisanship and lack of collegiality at the statehouse.

Until a less dysfunctional relationship is established, the role of the minority will be to react to the overreach of the majority who are testing the extremes of their ideology. Unfortunately, the extremists are driving an agenda that those in control seem unable to manage.

NUVO: If you could ask one question of your opponent, what would it be?

Do you really believe that your rigid and extreme ideology is helpful to, or representative of, a modern, internationally competitive city?

NUVO: What question do you wish we'd asked and how would you answer it?

What is the best part of what you do?

The absolute best part of representing my community is working with stakeholder groups to solve problems and create new opportunities. It is intensely satisfying to identify a problem, bring everyone together who is impacted by that problem, and collaboratively find a solution. Equally fulfilling, is envisioning a great new direction and developing a compelling plan to get there.


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