CHICAGO (AP) — Voters in Chicago will choose a new mayor Tuesday between two candidates with contrasting views. Democrats are competing to lead the nation’s third-largest city on issues including crime, taxes, investment in schools and policing.
The race pits former Chicago schools CEO Paul Vallas, a moderate Democrat endorsed by Chicago’s police union and major business groups, against progressive Brandon Johnson, a former teacher and union organizer backed by the Chicago Teachers Union. Both finished ahead of current Mayor Lori Lightfoot In February’s election, he was the first incumbent to lose re-election in the city in 40 years.
The top two vote-getters in the all-Democratic but officially non-partisan race went to a runoff Tuesday after no candidate received more than 50% of the vote.
The competition has been held with a focus on the rise in violent crime During the COVID-19 pandemic and rising property taxes. But it could have more implications for Democrats nationally than other elections, including mayoral races in cities like Philadelphia and Houston. For progressives and moderates in the party, the Chicago race is seen as a test of unifying power and messaging, especially on issues important to big cities, such as crime and compliance with law enforcement unions.
Wallace has repeatedly attacked Johnson for past comments in support of the police, saying Johnson would not make it as mayor. Still, Vallas — who wants to hire hundreds of officers — says the biggest quality that separates candidates is experience. The former Chicago budget director, who took on troubled schools in Chicago and elsewhere, says his background will be important to a city emerging from an epidemic with policing and economic crises.
“This is no time for on-the-job training,” Vallas said. “It’s not time for someone who doesn’t have specifics who can’t answer questions meaningfully.”
Johnson argued that Vallas, who ran for office several times as a Democrat, was too right-wing to lead Chicago. He noted that some of his major donors, including Donald Trump, supported Republicans, and the controversial head of the police union supported the January 6 riots. Sen. Vermont’s independent and progressive standard bearer. During a rally last weekend with Bernie Sanders, he described his opponent as part of the radical right and other “greedy profiteers.”
“When you’re taking dollars from Trump supporters and trying to make yourself part of the progressive movement — sit down, man,” Johnson said, before leading a crowd of several thousand who gathered at the rally to chant “Paul Vallas, sit down.”
Both have deep roots in the Democratic Party, though from vastly different backgrounds.
Johnson, who is black, grew up poor and is now raising her children in one of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods. After middle and high school, she helped mobilize teachers, including during the historic 2012 strike, which gave the Chicago Teachers Union greater influence in city politics.
The 47-year-old said the city should focus on mental health treatment, affordable housing for all and jobs for youth instead of investing heavily in policing and incarceration. He has proposed raising $800 million by taxing “maximum” individuals and businesses, including a “head tax” on employers per employee and an additional tax on hotel room stays. Vallas says the so-called “tax-rich” plan would be disastrous for the city’s recovering economy.
Vallas, the first-place finisher in the February election, was the only white candidate in the field of nine. The 69-year-old has Illinois Sen. Endorsed by Dick Durbin and the local Chamber of Commerce. The grandson of Greek immigrants, he grew up working in family restaurants. He has two sons who served as police officers and one of whom is now a firefighter.
Then-Mayor Richard M. After serving as budget director under Daley, Vallas was appointed to take over Chicago Public Schools. He later led the New Orleans and Philadelphia and Bridgeport, Connecticut districts after Hurricane Katrina. He unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2019.
In this election, he focused more on how to improve morale among officers — Vallas was an adviser to the union during Lightfoot’s negotiations with City Hall — and said he would promote a new police superintendent from within the department’s ranks.
Associated Press reporter Teresa Crawford contributed.
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