Illinois Experiences Political Upset When GOP Chair Filled By Senator Simmons

A Democratic committee named 7th District Senator Michael Simmons to fill the seat of GOP Chair, even though the job was expected to be given to Representative Kelly Cassidy because of her experience and leadership. Cassidy was a leading voice behind the 2019 cannabis measure and competed for her current seat after it was left vacant when Heather Steans stepped down. 

Simmons became a popular choice for different reasons: He grew up in the 7th District as an African American gay man. His experience isn’t as nuanced or storied as Cassidy’s but he worked for Senator Dick Durbin, who himself works under County Commissioner Bridget Gainer.

Chicago Ald. Harry Osterman said, “It was [Simmons’s] background, who he is as a person, how he connects with the neighborhood in a very grounded way, made a huge impression on me and made a huge impression on other committee members who supported him.”

Simmons said after his appointment, “There are a lot of disenfranchised people in the community. It’s a lot of responsibility and a lot of pressure but I feel like I’m ready. It’s a community I deeply love and I’m excited to go to bat for them.”

Critics of Simmons say he only got appointed over Cassidy because Cassidy didn’t want to wheel and deal with the Democratic committee in question. Allegedly, committee members had promised to hand her their votes if she only promised to support certain individuals.

Doris Turner was appointed to the state Senate when the seat was vacated by Andy Manar. Manar resigned after eight years of service after he received a job offer to become senior adviser to the governor. 

Turner said, “I am thankful to receive the support and appointment of the county chairs’ in the 48th district. This is an honor of a lifetime and not something that I will take for granted.” 

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