Mike Simmons has announced that he is running for the seat that Illinois state Sen. Heather Steans recently vacated.
Simmonswho is Black (half African-American, half Ethiopian) and gayis 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.
On Facebook, Simmons posted, "Since it was announced in the Illinois POLITICO Playbook and Capitol Fax Blog yesterday that I am seeking appointment to district 7 of the Illinois State Senate, which is being vacated, I want to confirm that am indeed placing my name in for consideration and am excited by this historic opportunity!
"If you know me, you know how committed I am to the communities I grew up in, Lincoln Square, Edgewater, Rogers Park, Uptown, Ravenswood, and Andersonville on Chicago's North Side. And how throughout my career I have fought to represent the needs and voices of disenfranchised people, and that voice is needed right now in the Illinois State Senate."
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!"
Among Simmons' honors are being one of Windy City Times 30 Under 30 (2012) and being a Crain's Chicago 40 Under 40 awardee (2020).