Brandon Johnson Wins Close Chicago Mayoral Election Over Paul Vallas


Chicago has declared Brandon Johnson, former teacher and union organizer, as their new mayor following a tight race against moderate Democrat Paul Vallas. Johnson, who is the first Black man to lead the third-largest US city in its 163 year history, was elected on Tuesday after neither he nor Vallas secured the 50% of votes necessary to win in the first round.

His election marks a major victory for the progressive movement, with the Chicago Teacher’s Union having endorsed Johnson and progressive senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren throwing their support behind him in the last days of the campaign. Johnson’s message prioritized investment in mental health services, job opportunities for youths, and a new tax system for businesses and wealthy individuals. This ran counter to Vallas’s policy of adding hundreds of new police officers to help bring down crime rates.

The election had been preceded by incumbent mayor Lori Lightfoot’s loss in the February primaries, making her the first mayor in four decades to not receive a second term. At 47, Johnson will be the youngest Mayor of Chicago since 1837 and has promised to listen to issues put forth by community groups, activists and marginalized groups.

Johnson has considerable experience in the field of the social activism and grassroots organizing. He had previously served as a Chicago Public Schools teacher and co-founded LEAD (Learning, Empowerment and Activism Division), an organization that helps to equip high school students to become empowered activists. He is also a leader of the CTU (Chicago Teachers Union), which has played an important role in promoting issues such as public health insurance, living wages and racial equity.

Our Revolution, a powerful U.S based progressive organization founded by Bernie Sanders, has lauded Johnson’s win and is pushing for similar victories in local and state office for their endorsed candidates. They are particularly eyeing victories in the upcoming mayoral elections in Philadelphia and elsewhere.

While Johnson’s victory brings numerous triumphs to the progressive party, only time will tell if the new mayor will be successful in tackling the many difficult challenges that face Chicago. The city and its 3 million residents are grappling with a history of high crime levels, financial issues and a severe coronavirus pandemic. To truly bring about lasting change, Johnson will have to rely on strong leadership and hard work in the months ahead.