Meet Allena Barbato, the Democrat candidate running for District 32 State Senator

Democratic candidate Allena Barbato talks police, government spending and abortion ahead of midterms elections


Barbato for Senate

Allena Barbato, currently a Lake Villa trustee, is a Democrat running to represent Illinois’s 32rd state senate district.

Lydia Lawrence, Business Director

Allena Barbato is an elected Lake Villa trustee in her fifth year. She is the Democratic candidate running for 32nd District State Senator against current Sen. Craig Wilcox.

Read our interview with Wilcox here.


You were a Crisis Intervention Team instructor for police officers. What was that like?

My lecture focuses on the psychological development and mental health issues of teens and youth. I go specifically into different kinds of issues that can arise with young people so that first responders and police officers know how to recognize that kind of situation when they may be stepping into it so that they can respond appropriately.

I love doing that, and the thing is, these officers, they’ve seen this. I actually asked what they’ve seen. They’re out there dealing with the people and situations that nobody wants to see or deal with: domestic violence, drug overdose, gang violence, bullying — all that horrible stuff that nobody wants. It’s really, really difficult because they can be getting a call to go to a home, where the neighbors heard people yelling, so they go and they never know what they’re going to deal with. 

The more [first responders] know about relational issues, mental health issues and developmental issues, the better equipped they can be to recognize certain situations and lower their stress levels a little bit. 

[CIT] is more like reinforcing or having deeper discussions of the things that they already know about. This course is a 40-hour course. It’s a week-long course that first responders and police officers take, and when they’re done, they get certified. 

The sort of folks who have been certified in CIT, are the ones that maybe get put into situations that deal with more complex issues. I do think that most police stations tried to get all of their folks CIT trained.


What was working on drug prevention like?

Before I did the work that I’m doing now, I worked in the Healthy Communities Healthy Youth, the Mundelein Police Station for underage drinking, the drug task force and the Opioid Task Force. 

All of those community organizations deal with the health of our youth in our community. Through these organizations, I actually met quite a few politicians, state attorneys, police officers and social workers. So I get to associate with the people in our community who keep us safe and who keep an eye on making sure that people are healthy.

I just love that kind of work, and it’s really informed what I do here in Lake County and McHenry County because I get to see what’s going on. I see the youth surveys about underage drug and alcohol use. I also taught suicide prevention in Woodlands School in Gurney to the middle schoolers in health class. 

Those conversations were really important to have. I tried to empower them to recognize when somebody is having a hard time to reach out and say, “Hey, can I help you?” “Can I take you to the school counselor?” “Is there something you want to talk about?” There’s certain things that you can say to help them feel comfortable on reaching out.


Speaking of all of the community work that you’ve done, do you think that prepared you for work in office?

Absolutely. I think I have a really good understanding of what’s going on in our community, what’s needed, where we’re lacking and where we’re strong. And [where] to build on our strengths and to shore up those areas where we’ve got some blind spots. Just to make our community healthier and stronger, basically.


How do you think being an elected trustee impacts your candidacy?

I think it helps. I think already being an elected official lends a certain amount of legitimacy to my candidacy because people see that I already know how to govern, how to legislate, how to appropriate budgets and oversee important functions like police, water sewer taxes, road repairs, small business incentives — all those really important things that run our cities in our states.


I read you believe there are unfair regulations on small businesses and farms. Could you elaborate on those?

I think more to the point would be that I would like to incentivize local businesses more than international or national chains. When we incentivize locally owned businesses, the money stays in our community. We engage employees in our community, and it makes our community stronger. 

For example, in my work as the trustee, we have what’s called a tax incentive fund or a TIF fund. Through that fund, we help bring in small businesses if they need a repair or they want to do an add-on. We’ve helped a barber shop with a big add-on that’s going to have students to teach [them] how to be barbers, and we gave them some incentive money for that. 

We helped a small T-shirt company with some loans and some TIF money, to make their business a little bigger. We’ve helped many different small businesses in our community to be stronger and to grow because we think that really adds to the quality of our community. 

It’s a fiscally good thing to do because it adds to our tax base, employees working in our community and the money comes right back. I think that’s a really important thing for a lot of smaller communities to start doing more and more of for sure. 


How do you feel about current government spending and taxation?

I think it’s a lot better now than it used to be state-wise. Susana Mendoza, who is our state comptroller, walked into a several billion dollar deficit from the previous leader. We had eight credit downgrades and we hadn’t had a budget in two years. We were billions of dollars in debt, and she’s worked so hard. 

They’ve paid off to the state of Illinois maybe 2 billion, I have to check. [We’ve] increased our credit rating from eight downgrades the previous Governor Woodson to six credit upgrades, which is the first time in 20 years we’ve had a credit upgrade. 

What that does is when we want to borrow money to do something as a state or if we want to do something for services or goods, there’s always an interest rate that comes with it. It’s very similar to a mortgage. So the better your credit is, the lower your interest you’re going to pay because you’re a better risk. 

By increasing our credit rating by six points, we get to have a much lower interest rate, which means Illinois taxpayers pay less money for the things that we want to do as a state. In turn, it should end up with people paying less property taxes, which is a big issue for a lot of people.


Some public officials have stated that they want to criminalize abortion across the U.S. What is your opinion on this? 

That’s one of the main reasons why I’m running. We learned our lesson many years ago when our mothers and grandmothers fought for the right to have a safe and legal abortion. We know what can happen when abortions are not accessible to women: women end up dying. 

Thousands of women died every year before Roe v. Wade passed. They would either die bleeding out or they would have permanent damage, not be able to have children again or have some sort of disability. Thousands of women around the world still die today where abortion isn’t legal or safe or accessible to them. And it is a huge health issue for women. 

Regardless of what people believe, this is a health issue, and we as a government need to take care of the people, our citizens. If we know that women die by not providing safe, legal abortions, then that needs to be addressed. If we’re going to take away women’s right to abortion, are we now going to provide subsidized childcare? Are we now going to provide medical care that women and babies need? What about all the complications of a birth where a woman had a choice to decide whether or not they wanted to have that child?

There’s a lot that’s not being thought about. If a woman makes a mistake and gets pregnant … and puts that baby up for adoption — what about the surge in adoptions in our adoption agencies? There’s a lot of money that’s going to have to be provided if we’re going to support all these babies that normally would not have been born.

If we are basically forcing women to have pregnancies and to have children that they don’t want, then they should also be providing financial care on the other side of it too, whether it’s adoption or childcare. 

[Abortion] is at the forefront and people need to know the things to come next after banning abortion — they plan to ban contraception. Google it and look up Republican platforms. They plan to ban contraception next. The next thing that Justice [Clarence] Thomas talked about in his opinion was to take another look at people marrying someone from another race. 

They are planning on turning the clock back to a time when people couldn’t marry who they wanted to marry, when women couldn’t get contraception, when women couldn’t get abortions, and we know what it was like to live through those times. It created a lot of hardship and difficulty and death for people. I’d like to think that we’ve progressed into the year 2022 to provide these human rights to people. That’s not what’s on the table for a lot of Republicans. Not all of them, but a lot of them believe that these things would be good for society. 

This is a huge time to make sure that you know who you’re voting for and why you’re voting for them. And that’s why I’m running, I mean, I have a lot going on. Two teenage daughters, one in college, one in high school. I have a full time job, I’m a trustee, but I just couldn’t stand back and watch this happen in my community; I felt like I needed to do something. 


What are your thoughts on the SAFE-T Act that’s being proposed in Illinois?

Well, the SAFE-T Act is already passed, it passed many months ago. The reason why we’re hearing about it now is because they are trying to make us forget about pro-choice. They’re making a lot of noise about the SAFE-T Act, and they’re trying to make people afraid so that they forget that pro-choice is on the line. It’s the tactic that’s being used right now. 

What I will say about the SAFE-T Act is that, under the SAFE-T Act, violent offenders will stay in jail until the time of their trial. So our community will be safer under the SAFE-T Act. Because people who are being charged with violent crimes, assaults, will not be able to post a cash bail and be out in our community. So actually, under the SAFE-T Act, people who are charged with violent crimes will stay in jail until the time of their trial. This is a really important thing for people to know about, the SAFE-T Act.


Democrats have been criticized for the handling of the COVID pandemic. Would you have done anything differently?
I think that most of the decisions that were made followed science. When COVID numbers rose, we took action to keep our students, our teachers and our staff safe. We had how many million die in the United States from COVID? They say the numbers are probably a lot higher because of COVID-related deaths as well. 

I think that they did what they needed to do to protect our community. And I think that in places where they didn’t take the kinds of safeguards we did, more people died. We have the statistics to show that. So I say, look at the statistics, and look at the places where they didn’t use the same safeguards that Illinois did, and you’ll see more per-capita deaths. I say we did what we needed to do to protect our citizens