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* The initial vote was divided, but then the Democratic committeepersons voted for Mike Simmons by acclamation to replace Sen. Heather Steans As I told you Thursday, the 40th Ward Democratic Organization and the 47th Ward Democratic Organization were deadlocked between Rep. Kelly Cassidy and Mike Simmons and that today could be interesting. Cassidy was considered almost a lock. Didn’t happen.
I’m sure there’s going to be a wild back story on this. Ald. Harry Osterman, who shares an office with Rep. Cassidy, went with Simmons, for example.
That’s two Black people appointed to the Illinois Senate today. Both replaced white people.
* Some background on the new Senator from Windy City Times…
Simmons—who is Black (half African-American, half Ethiopian) and gay—is the founder and CEO of Blue Sky Strategies as well as deputy director of My Brother’s Keeper, a national program based at the Obama Foundation that works to remove the opportunity gap for young men of color. According to Blue Sky’s website, the firm specializes “in equitable urban planning, youth empowerment, government accountability, and anti-racist public policy.”
In a bio Simmons submitted to Windy City Times, he added that he is the son of a Black woman and single mother of two (and Rogers Park business owner who owned and ran her small business, Salon Pastiche, for 25 years), and an Ethiopian immigrant to Edgewater. He stated that his family was one of the first Black families to integrate Lincoln Square, in 1981. He currently lives in Chicago’s Uptown area with his partner.
The political candidate and former Equality Illinois board member also stated that he worked as a policy director for then-Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, where he led efforts to build new grocery stores in the city’s food deserts. […]
In an email to Windy City Times, Simmons said, “The district is home to many, many LGBTQ households. There are so many people in this district whose voices need to be heard in the State Senate, and I am stepping forward to be that voice. We have a historic opportunity to appoint the first Black person on the North Side to State Senate, and only the third openly gay, Black state senator in the country. And my public policy experience and community level experience have equipped me to serve at this level. I’m here for it!”
He was also a Crain’s 40 Under 40 award-winner.
*** UPDATE *** Press release…
Following is a statement from Rep. Cassidy on the appointment of Mike Simmons to the Illinois Senate seat to be vacated by Sen. Heather Steans:
“I congratulate Mike Simmons on his appointment to the 7th District Senate seat long held by Sen. Steans. I thank our community members and the Democratic Party leadership in our area for their support, and for leading this process. I also thank the other candidates who stepped up and put their names forward on behalf of their communities. Finally, I am profoundly grateful to Sen. Steans, for her friendship and guidance over the years, and for her leadership on so many matters of critical importance to our communities. From COVID relief to tackling our budget challenges, from making sure our communities are fairly represented in redistricting to continuing to build on the progress in criminal justice reform forged by the Black Caucus, I pledge to continue to be a relentless voice for our values in the Illinois House of Representatives.”