Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson will meet in a runoff to be the next mayor of Chicago after voters on Tuesday denied incumbent Lori Lightfoot a second term, giving a rebuke to a leader who made history as head of the nation’s third-largest city.
Since none of the nine candidates was able to get more than 50% of the vote to win outright on April 4, Vallas, a former CEO of a school district who is supported by the police union, and Johnson, a Cook County commissioner who the Chicago Teachers Union supports, proceeded to the runoff.
After promising to end years of corruption and backroom dealing at City Hall, Lightfoot, the first Black woman and openly lesbian person to head the city, was elected to her first term in 2019.
Yet, critics saw Lightfoot as a divided, excessively argumentative leader and blamed her for increasing crime.
Since Jane Byrne, the city’s first female mayor, lost her Democratic primary in 1983, she is the first elected mayor of Chicago to lose a reelection campaign.
Tuesday night, Lightfoot addressed his supporters and referred to being mayor of Chicago as “the honor of a lifetime.”
No matter what happened tonight, Lightfoot added, “We fought the right fights, and we put this city on a better course.
She advised her fellow mayors across the nation not to be afraid of being bold.
At his celebration of victory, Vallas mentioned that Lightfoot had called to congratulate him and requested a round of applause for her.
He claimed that, if elected, he would work to address public safety issues, a hint to his campaign promise to fight crime.
“Chicago will be secure. Chicago will become the safest city in America, according to Vallas.
For mayors of big cities, who often have an easy time being reelected, Lightfoot’s defeat is uncommon.
But it’s also a reflection of the unrest that has erupted in American cities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with its adverse economic effects and widespread increases in violent crime.
Some recent elections, such as the recall of a San Francisco district attorney who was criticized for adopting leftist policies, raised concerns about public safety.
In other cities where incumbent mayors cannot reelect because of term restrictions, like Philadelphia and Houston, the pandemic may also influence this year’s mayoral elections.
Johnson and Vallas stand in stark contrast to one another.
The Fraternal Order of Police used Vallas as a consultant when negotiating with the Lightfoot administration.
He claims that crime has gotten out of control under Lightfoot’s leadership, and officer morale has reached a new low.
He has called for hundreds more police officers to monitor the city.
Vallas’ detractors have accused him of being too conservative to serve as the leader of the Democratic stronghold.
Lightfoot criticized him for accepting assistance from the contentious head of the police union, who stood up for the Capitol insurrectionists on January 6 and compared Lightfoot’s vaccination requirement for city workers to the Holocaust.
Johnson received around $1 million for his candidacy from the Chicago Teachers Union, and numerous other leftist groups, including United Working Families, supported him.
The former teacher and union organizer has claimed that investing in mental health services, education, jobs, and affordable housing instead of more money for the police is the best way to reduce crime.
Opponents like Lightfoot have accused him of attempting to defund the police.
Johnson has refrained from using the word “defund” throughout the campaign, and his team claims he opposes reducing the number of police officers.
Yet, Johnson argued in a 2020 radio interview that defunding is “an actual genuine political goal,” and he supported a non-binding county board vote to divert funds away from law enforcement and jails and toward social services.
The crime was an issue that connected with voters.
Rita DiPietro, a city resident, declared her support for Lightfoot in 2019. However, she supported Vallas on election day, expressing her admiration for his thorough approach to addressing public safety.
All of the contenders, she added, “speak about what they’d like to do.” “This person truly has a strategy. He is aware of his progress.
Candidates had to compete for votes in the racially segregated city, with a population evenly split between Black, Hispanic, and white citizens. Vallas was the only person of color running. Although Lightfoot said, she was the only Black candidate who could win, Johnson and five other contenders were also Black. U.S. Representative Jesus “Chuy” Garcia was the lone Latino running.
By claiming that his campaign is about “taking back our city,” Vallas, according to Lightfoot, is employing “the ultimate dog whistle,” and she also accused him of befriending the racist president of the Fraternal Order of Police.
According to a recent Chicago Tribune article, Vallas’ Twitter account liked racist and Lightfoot-mocking remarks.