Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot lost her reelection bid after failing to garner enough votes in the first round, leaving candidates Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson on the playing field for the runoffs.
Vallas, a former schools chief, positioned reducing crime and increasing public safety at the forefront of his campaign and scored an endorsement from Chicago’s police union.
“We will have a safe Chicago. We will make Chicago the safest city in America,” he said Tuesday night, per NBC News.
Who is running in Chicago’s mayoral race?
The former school superintendent unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2002 and for lieutenant governor in 2014.
Although he lost against Lightfoot in the mayoral race in 2019, Vallas came back on top and received 34% of the 98% counted votes this time around, according to CBS News.
Meanwhile, Johnson garnered 20% of the support. The progressive Cook Country commissioner, who is supported by the Chicago Teachers Union, favors a “treatment not trauma” approach that prioritizes mental health infrastructures to respond to crisis calls, and also backs housing Chicago’s unhoused residents, according to his campaign website.
“A few months ago they said they didn’t know who I was. Well, if you didn’t know, now you know,” Johnson said on Tuesday night, per The Associated Press.
Lightfoot, who became Chicago’s first Black female and openly gay mayor in 2019, trailed with 17% of the votes. The first to lose reelection in 40 years, she suffered the same fate as Jane Byrne, the first and only other female mayor of Chicago, per Chicago Tribune.
Under Lightfoot’s leadership, thefts, burglaries and robberies increased in high numbers — especially between 2022 and 2023 — while her relationship with the teachers’ union turned sour and led to an 11-day strike, per The New York Times.
As Al Jazeera stated, the former U.S. prosecutor didn’t have a politics-focused resume, making her initial win in 2019 a surprise.
“I’ve called Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas to congratulate them on their victories in advancing,” Lightfoot said in her remarks at the Carpenters Local 1 Hall, according to Politico. “We were fierce competitors. ... But I will be reading and praying for our next mayor to deliver for the people for years to come.”
A need to curb crime
Voters in some liberal cities seem to be looking for control over crime and expanded public safety. “Chicagoans are genuinely frustrated by the state of the city, and crime is vastly overshadowing any other concerns,” Julie Bosman, the New York Times’ Chicago bureau chief, told the Times. “In a city known for its powerful leaders, it’s unsurprising that a lot of Chicagoans see this as Lightfoot’s failure. Many voters I’ve talked to see this mayoral race as a chance to reset.”
Consider New York Mayor Eric Adams, a recently elected Democrat who worked for the New York City Police Department for two decades, and was favored for his “tough on crime” approach.
San Fransisco, another city criticized for issues related to crime and homelessness, could see a similar trend, especially after the recall of the city’s district attorney, who upheld progressive policies, as AP noted.
When is Chicago’s runoff election?
None of the nine candidates received 50% of the support, which is why the election will move to the runoffs scheduled for April 4. This will count as Chicago’s fourth runoff in 24 years.
Other running candidates included U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, businessman Willie Wilson, state Rep. Kambium “Kam” Buckner, activist Ja’Mal Green and city council members Sophia King and Roderick Sawyer, according to The Associated Press.