On Tuesday, Brandon Johnson, a union organizer and former teacher made history by winning a close race over moderate Democrat Paul Vallas to become the mayor of Chicago. Johnson won a high office of any teacher’s union member in recent history, and his victory marks a major win for progressive politics.
Johnson, 47, was endorsed by the Chicago Teachers Union and backed by prominent progressive politicians like Sens. Bernie and Elizabeth Warren, who appeared at his rally for support. His closing argument for a campaign focused on allocating resources for mental health treatments and youth jobs. His opponent Vallas, 69, focused on hiring more police officers and was supported by Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois as well as the police union.
His victory comes as the third largest city in the country faces issues of high crime and a lack of financial stability. Johnson succeeds incumbent Lori Lightfoot, the first Black woman and first openly gay person to be mayor of Chicago, who was eliminated from the race after finishing third in the initial round.
The victory is being hailed as one for progressive organizations like the Chicago Teachers Union, who were long-time supporters of Johnson in the race. Groups such as Our Revolution are also touting this success as they are pushing to win more local and state-level elections, particularly in upcoming mayoral elections in Philadelphia and elsewhere.
The election saw tensions from all sides as progressives blasted Vallas as too conservative and a Republican in disguise. The election results show the tide is changing, with Chicago opting to elect Johnson’s progressive approach over his opponents more centrist policies.
Johnson has his work cut out for him as mayor of Chicago. He must manage crime and financial instability, as well as unite an increasingly divide city. With his history of union organizing and teaching, Johnson is sure to be up for the challenge ahead.