State Rep. Kelly Cassidy and two others interested in the appointment to outgoing state Sen. Heather Steans’ legislative seat will make their case to constituents Tuesday evening at a virtual meeting hosted by a group that has raised concerns that the selection process shuts out voters.
Michael Simmons, a lifelong resident of the district, and Cassidy will explain their qualifications for the state’s upper legislative chamber during the Zoom meeting, which is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. and is hosted by a local chapter of Indivisible.
Justin Koziatek, the district director for Cook County Commissioner Kevin Morrison, said he hasn’t decided if he will formally seek the appointment, but he intends to join the call.
Simmons — who like Cassidy and Koziatek is gay — founded Blue Sky Strategies, which focuses on equitable urban planning and anti-racism in public policy.
His family moved into the area in 1981 – two years before Simmons was born. They were one of the first Black families to integrate the Lincoln Square neighborhood after the U.S. Supreme Court mandated that public housing be built on the North Side of the city, Simmons said.
Simmons argues that his experience will enable him “to work to serve the community to deliver on the kind of vision that allowed my life story to even be possible.”
“We’re at the point right now where there is an upheaval for racial justice, and we’ve seen that locally,” Simmons said, adding that the demographics of the district, both racially and economically, make this the right time for him to seek office.
“I’ve got the lived experience that allow me to report to the state Senate and immediately start introducing legislation that would bring an anti-racism lens to bills coming out of Springfield.”
Cassidy also plans to participate. The North Side Democrat jumped into the race the day Steans announced her plans to resign last week.
“I’m pleased that so many groups are seeking to provide a forum for candidates so that as many people as possible can be engaged in this process,” Cassidy’s latest written statement read. “Being able to face a crowd and speak to your values and priorities is one of the best ways to show your qualifications to represent our community in Springfield.”
As Democratic committeeperson for the 49th Ward, Cassidy is one of the nine members of the Cook County Democratic Party who will ultimately decide who gets the appointment Cassidy and Simmons are seeking.
Along with Cassidy, Simmons and Koziatek, the Indivisible chapter will also hear from those who are seeking the appointment to Cassidy’s seat should she ascend to the Senate.
Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth, a co-coordinator of the host group, previously told the Chicago Sun-Times the appointment process “leaves behind the voters.”
“It shuts out … people and independent voices,” Manaa-Hoppenworth said. “And who, instead, has the power to give that elected office to a person is a very select few people — they’re political insiders.”
The group put out a petition last week and, among their list of demands, the Andersonville and Edgewater group wants the nine committeepeople who will pick a replacement to “acknowledge the appointment process should be reserved for special and extenuating circumstances.”
The chapter is part of Indivisible Illinois, which was founded in 2016 to push back on former President Donald Trump’s agenda.
They also want the party leaders to “recognize the remarkable history of appointments and midterm resignations in our neighborhoods in particular,” which they say dates back to the 1970s, and “commit to breaking the toxic cycle and appoint an interim placeholder State Senator who promises not to run for re-election in 2022” so there is a “level playing field,” Manaa-Hoppenworth said.
Koziatek said if he does seek the appointment he’d offer committeepeople “a choice that was committed to not running in 2022 for the Senate seat.”
Simmons did not commit to not running in 2022.
On Sunday, Ald. Harry Osterman, who also represents the 48th Ward as its Democratic committeeperson and has the largest share of the weighted vote, said he plans to convene the nine committeepeople for an open forum at 1 p.m. on Feb. 6 at the Swedish American Museum, though the meeting will be conducted via videoconference.
Until then, he and the others plan to spread the word about the position through social media and through their own networks.
“We’re trying to do this in an open, fair, transparent process,” Osterman told the Chicago Sun-Times Sunday. “I think that’s really important for us, I think our constituents expect that, and that’s what we’re committed to.”
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January 26, 2021 at 09:12PM