headshot of candidate

Denise Simmons

She/Her

Currently
City Councillor
Election history
10th term in office, previously Mayor

More about Denise Simmons

Brought up in Cambridge, Denise Simmons has been active in the Cambridge community for many years.

Denise Simmons previously served 2 terms as mayor, which made her both the first Black, openly-lesbian mayor in the United States and the first Black woman to be mayor in Massachusetts. In the 2017 election, she was one of two candidates elected outright on the first count of ballots.

Incumbent
Yes
Education
  • BS, UMass Boston
  • Master's, Antioch College
Age
72 years, 4 months
Born in Cambridge, MA in 1951
Voting
Reg. June 1, 1987
History
  • 🗳️ 2022 General Primary - Democratic
  • 🗳️ 2022 General
  • 🗳️ 2021 Municipal
  • 🗳️ 2020 General
  • 🗳️ 2020 General Primary - Democratic
  • 🗳️ 2020 Presidental Primary - Democratic
  • 🗳️ 2019 Municipal
  • 🗳️ 2018 General Primary - Democratic
  • 🗳️ 2018 General
  • 🗳️ 2017 Municipal
  • 🗳️ 2016 General Primary - Democratic
  • 🗳️ 2016 General
  • 🗳️ 2016 Presidental Primary - Democratic
  • 🗳️ 2015 Municipal
  • 🗳️ 2014 General Primary - Democratic
  • 🗳️ 2014 General
  • 🗳️ 2013 Special
  • 🗳️ 2013 Special Primary - Democratic
  • 🗳️ 2013 Municipal
  • 🗳️ 2012 General Primary - Democratic
  • 🗳️ 2012 Presidental Primary - Democratic
  • 🗳️ 2012 General

Where Denise Lives

Address
Rents at 188 Harvard Street #4B

Denise on Housing

Proposal Supported?
AHO #3
2072 Mass Ave
AHO #2
AHO #1
+$20mil Housing Trust
10% Budget for Housing
NCD Reform

I am one of the councilors currently pushing for this, and I believe this will offer greater flexibility to affordable housing developers who are seeking to create viable new projects. The ability to develop such buildings in our major squares will add life and vitality to the squares, and provide much-needed housing - homes - to so many who are currently struggling to remain a part of our community.

Denise on Other Issues

Proposal Supported?
Sa/Su Car-free Mem Drive
Delay Mass Ave Bike Lanes
Remove Wires Before Bike Lane
CSO #2 n/a
Release Use-of-Force Names
No Parking Min.

Endorsements for Denise

Organization Cambridge? Union? View
A Better Cambridge on Sept. 15, 2023
Save Mass Ave this cycle
Greater Boston Labor Council this cycle

View on their site »

Q&A

Interviews with Denise

ABC Candidate Questionnaire 2023

Housing policy, development, governance questions

ABC Candidate Questionnaire 2023

Housing policy, development, governance questions

Cambridge Nonprofit Coalition

Distribution of funds, non-profits and their position in Cambridge

Cambridge Nonprofit Coalition

Distribution of funds, non-profits and their position in Cambridge

CEOC Questionnaire 2023

"questions about the issues that most impact Cambridge’s low-income populations" (available in several languages)

CEOC Questionnaire 2023

"questions about the issues that most impact Cambridge’s low-income populations" (available in several languages)

Quotes by or about Denise

I often say: Northern Born and Southern Raised

Denise Simmons, Backyard Cambridge

I do not want us to become a city of the haves and the have-nots, and I do not want the rich people on one side of town, and the poor on the other side

Press

Articles about or by Denise

The Harvard Crimson After 10 Terms on the City Council, Denise Simmons Still Has Work To Do

"I’m very proud that we have a lot of women in leadership; the other side of that is we don’t have enough women of color," Simmons said. "We're not educating sufficiently and significantly enough Black and brown and Latinx children."

If reelected, she said it is a priority for her that the council vote in a new city manager who reflects the city’s diversity — after Louis A. DePasquale retires in July.

J. Sellers Hill, Salaidh A. Perez
The Harvard Crimson After 10 Terms on the City Council, Denise Simmons Still Has Work To Do

"I’m very proud that we have a lot of women in leadership; the other side of that is we don’t have enough women of color," Simmons said. "We're not educating sufficiently and significantly enough Black and brown and Latinx children."

If reelected, she said it is a priority for her that the council vote in a new city manager who reflects the city’s diversity — after Louis A. DePasquale retires in July.

J. Sellers Hill, Salaidh A. Perez
The Harvard Crimson Trailblazing Councilor E. Denise Simmons Seeks 12th Term on Cambridge City Council

Throughout her two decades on the Council, Simmons said some of her proudest moments were during her time as chair of the Housing Committee, increasing funding for the Affordable Housing Trust by tripling linkage fees — a charge on certain types of developments — and leading the conversation on inclusionary zoning.

Simmons has long advocated for various affordable housing initiatives, from sponsoring a passed policy order allocating an additional $20 million from the city’s budget towards affordable housing to voting to pass amendments loosening building height restrictions to the 100%-Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay.

Oct. 24, 2023 — Jina H. Choe
The Harvard Crimson Trailblazing Councilor E. Denise Simmons Seeks 12th Term on Cambridge City Council

Throughout her two decades on the Council, Simmons said some of her proudest moments were during her time as chair of the Housing Committee, increasing funding for the Affordable Housing Trust by tripling linkage fees — a charge on certain types of developments — and leading the conversation on inclusionary zoning.

Simmons has long advocated for various affordable housing initiatives, from sponsoring a passed policy order allocating an additional $20 million from the city’s budget towards affordable housing to voting to pass amendments loosening building height restrictions to the 100%-Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay.

Oct. 24, 2023 — Jina H. Choe
Cambridge Day Statements by five Cambridge city councillors on the attack on Israel

Oct. 13, 2023 — E. Denise Simmons, Patty Nolan, Paul Toner, Burhan Azeem, Marc McGovern
Cambridge Day Statements by five Cambridge city councillors on the attack on Israel

Oct. 13, 2023 — E. Denise Simmons, Patty Nolan, Paul Toner, Burhan Azeem, Marc McGovern
The Harvard Crimson Harvard Affiliates, Cambridge Resident Debate Memorial Drive Traffic Closure at City Council Meeting

City Councilor E. Denise Simmons exercised her “charter right” on the policy order, thereby delaying a decision on the matter, due to her objections on behalf of people living on the detour streets.

“The Memorial Drive debate has echoes of so many past battles in which the voices of concerned neighbors, Black people, moderate-income people, minorities, people who are often referred to as the have-nots among us, have been so callously, casually, and dismissively brushed aside,” she said.

Simmons characterized the opposition to Riverside residents’ concerns as insensitive to the historical dismissal of people from marginalized groups in Cambridge.

“The response is, ‘The benefits of the many outweigh the inconveniences of a few, so too bad for you,’” she said.

Feb. 15, 2023 — Samuel P. Goldston
The Harvard Crimson Harvard Affiliates, Cambridge Resident Debate Memorial Drive Traffic Closure at City Council Meeting

City Councilor E. Denise Simmons exercised her “charter right” on the policy order, thereby delaying a decision on the matter, due to her objections on behalf of people living on the detour streets.

“The Memorial Drive debate has echoes of so many past battles in which the voices of concerned neighbors, Black people, moderate-income people, minorities, people who are often referred to as the have-nots among us, have been so callously, casually, and dismissively brushed aside,” she said.

Simmons characterized the opposition to Riverside residents’ concerns as insensitive to the historical dismissal of people from marginalized groups in Cambridge.

“The response is, ‘The benefits of the many outweigh the inconveniences of a few, so too bad for you,’” she said.

Feb. 15, 2023 — Samuel P. Goldston
Wicked Local Cambridge ELECTION 2021: Cambridge City Council candidate statements

I first ran for office because I wanted to make a positive difference in my community and because I believed that there is no challenge that can’t be overcome when a group of people roll up their sleeves and make a good faith effort to address it. I still believe that to be the case, and while I will rarely make the most headlines or the most noise on social media, I will always be plugging away, working my heart out for the people of Cambridge.

Oct. 21, 2021 — Community Content
Wicked Local Cambridge ELECTION 2021: Cambridge City Council candidate statements

I first ran for office because I wanted to make a positive difference in my community and because I believed that there is no challenge that can’t be overcome when a group of people roll up their sleeves and make a good faith effort to address it. I still believe that to be the case, and while I will rarely make the most headlines or the most noise on social media, I will always be plugging away, working my heart out for the people of Cambridge.

Oct. 21, 2021 — Community Content
The Harvard Crimson Incumbent City Council Candidates Focus on Housing Crisis, Voter Engagement in Reelection Campaigns

"I don’t want to go back to normal," Simmons said. "I want us to go back to better because we have now proven to ourselves — and the community — that we can do it if we choose to."

Oct. 21, 2021 — Sarah Girma, Jennifer L. Powley
The Harvard Crimson Incumbent City Council Candidates Focus on Housing Crisis, Voter Engagement in Reelection Campaigns

"I don’t want to go back to normal," Simmons said. "I want us to go back to better because we have now proven to ourselves — and the community — that we can do it if we choose to."

Oct. 21, 2021 — Sarah Girma, Jennifer L. Powley
Wicked Local Cambridge Cambridge councilors write in support of 2072 Mass. Ave. affordable housing project

In short, this building is everything we’ve stated we want as a city: affordable, family-sized homes that are transit oriented, on a major retail corridor, beautifully designed, and environmentally sustainable. This is a project that meets all the city’s major goals, and it should be applauded.

May 17, 2021 — Sumbul Siddiqui, Alanna Mallon, Denise Summons, Marc McGovern
Wicked Local Cambridge Cambridge councilors write in support of 2072 Mass. Ave. affordable housing project

In short, this building is everything we’ve stated we want as a city: affordable, family-sized homes that are transit oriented, on a major retail corridor, beautifully designed, and environmentally sustainable. This is a project that meets all the city’s major goals, and it should be applauded.

May 17, 2021 — Sumbul Siddiqui, Alanna Mallon, Denise Summons, Marc McGovern
The Harvard Crimson McGovern and Simmons Most Favored On Cambridge City Council Per Resident Survey

In a poll of registered voters in Cambridge released Monday, Mayor Marc C. McGovern and City Councilor E. Denise Simmons garnered the highest approval rating among their peers, polling at 42.5 percent and 40.7 percent, respectively.

Sept. 11, 2019 — Declan J. Knieriem
The Harvard Crimson McGovern and Simmons Most Favored On Cambridge City Council Per Resident Survey

In a poll of registered voters in Cambridge released Monday, Mayor Marc C. McGovern and City Councilor E. Denise Simmons garnered the highest approval rating among their peers, polling at 42.5 percent and 40.7 percent, respectively.

Sept. 11, 2019 — Declan J. Knieriem
MIT News Art and dirt: Bringing the Cambridge and MIT communities together

Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmons reflected on the event: “This celebration is about positive things happening in our community.”

Regarding the new graduate student housing, she said: “Some of you might not think that’s much of a big deal, but let me tell you why it is. Placing more graduate students in campus housing relieves pressure on the housing market in Cambridge. That’s good for everyone. Thank you to MIT.”

Oct. 23, 2017 — MIT News Office
MIT News Art and dirt: Bringing the Cambridge and MIT communities together

Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmons reflected on the event: “This celebration is about positive things happening in our community.”

Regarding the new graduate student housing, she said: “Some of you might not think that’s much of a big deal, but let me tell you why it is. Placing more graduate students in campus housing relieves pressure on the housing market in Cambridge. That’s good for everyone. Thank you to MIT.”

Oct. 23, 2017 — MIT News Office
Wicked Local Cambridge Why a record number of Cambridge women are running for City Council

“I do not want us to become a city of the haves and the have-nots, and I do not want the rich people on one side of town, and the poor on the other side,” wrote Mayor Simmons. “I want us to be able to cater to all, to have a mixing and mingling of people from all rungs on the socio-economic ladder. I want housing that is affordable to the families that have been here for generations.”

Oct. 3, 2017 — Amy Saltzman
Wicked Local Cambridge Why a record number of Cambridge women are running for City Council

“I do not want us to become a city of the haves and the have-nots, and I do not want the rich people on one side of town, and the poor on the other side,” wrote Mayor Simmons. “I want us to be able to cater to all, to have a mixing and mingling of people from all rungs on the socio-economic ladder. I want housing that is affordable to the families that have been here for generations.”

Oct. 3, 2017 — Amy Saltzman
Wicked Local Cambridge Cambridge City Council names Denise Simmons mayor

Denise Simmons has been elected mayor for the second time in a unanimous vote by the Cambridge City Council at its inaugural meeting Monday morning, Jan 4.

“We are here for one purpose and one purpose alone, and that is to serve the citizens of Cambridge,” Simmons said at the ceremony. “It is our job to make sure people have jobs that pay a fair wage and that no one is denied a service because of the color of their skin, who they choose to love, their age, gender or zip code.”

Jan. 6, 2016 — Natalie Handy
Wicked Local Cambridge Cambridge City Council names Denise Simmons mayor

Denise Simmons has been elected mayor for the second time in a unanimous vote by the Cambridge City Council at its inaugural meeting Monday morning, Jan 4.

“We are here for one purpose and one purpose alone, and that is to serve the citizens of Cambridge,” Simmons said at the ceremony. “It is our job to make sure people have jobs that pay a fair wage and that no one is denied a service because of the color of their skin, who they choose to love, their age, gender or zip code.”

Jan. 6, 2016 — Natalie Handy
Pride Who the F Is … Politician E. Denise Simmons?

Choice quote: “People coming into my office come for housing or some other issue. They don’t care if I have polka dots and a pointed head, they care about services.” – Simmons to Passport in 2008

May 30, 2014 — Trudy Ring
Pride Who the F Is … Politician E. Denise Simmons?

Choice quote: “People coming into my office come for housing or some other issue. They don’t care if I have polka dots and a pointed head, they care about services.” – Simmons to Passport in 2008

May 30, 2014 — Trudy Ring

Campaign finance

How much Denise has raised and spent

$31,201
Current balance
$12,261
Balance at the start of 2023
$38,846
Raised in 2023
$19,906
Spent in 2023