State Senator Mike Simmons is running unposed for the seat he assumed in February 2021. Photo: Mike Simmons campaign

As part of News is Out’s Election 2022 coverage, we are looking at races all over the country and sharing campaigns of key LGBTQ+ candidates.

Name: Mike Simmons

Office: Illinois state Senate

Bio: Simmons—a former Windy City Times 30 Under 30 honoree—is the first openly gay member of the Illinois Senate and the third openly gay, Black state senator in the country. 

He’s unopposed in the primary and general elections in his first time on the ballot. (He was chosen to succeed now-former state Sen. Heather Steans on Feb. 6, 2021.) 

Most important issue in the race: There is no contested race, but Simmons has said he firmly believes in listening to his constituents. He has told Windy City Times, “I want to let them speak directly to their experiences, and then it will be my job as the legislator to act on those needs and introduce legislation, then to fight really hard to get those bills passed.”

One of the first laws he passed was the Jett Hawkins Act, which banned discrimination against ethnic hairstyles in schools. (As Simmons himself wears dreads, this was an important and personal issue to him.)

According to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, Simmons has been a vocal advocate for police accountability, vaccine equity and mental-health parity, and he has fought to protect critical reproductive rights. One of his proudest moments was when he voted for the Illinois Way Forward Act, which prohibits local law enforcement from collaborating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), enacting some of the strongest protections for immigrants in the country. 

The significance or historic first of Simmons’ election: Simmons will be the first LGBTQ+ member elected (as opposed to being appointed) to the Illinois state Senate.