Chicago Mayoral Race: Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas Compete in Runoff Election


Chicagoans are set to cast their ballots in Tuesday’s mayoral runoff election, which features two Democrats as the frontrunners: Chicago Public Schools (CPS) alumnus Brandon Johnson and former CPS CEO Paul Vallas. After the initial February 28 mayoral election, Johnson, a Cook County Commissioner, and Vallas, a former Chicago alderman, were the first two candidates to advance to the runoff. Tuesday’s election will determine who will succeed Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who narrowly missed out on an opportunity to compete in the runoff when she finished in third place.

The mayoral candidates’ visions for the city are largely centered around economic recovery, public safety, violence prevention, and education. Johnson, who is backed by notable figures like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Ayanna Pressley, has been heavily supported by progressive lawmakers from Illinois such as Kwame Raoul, Toni Preckwinkle, and Jesús “Chuy” Garcia. His campaign has been endorsed by organizations from the Chicago Teachers Union. Vallas, on the other hand, has won the endorsement of the city’s police union, as well as several Black leaders, like Jesse White, Bobby Rush, Emil Jones, and Willie Wilson, who have all thrown their support behind him.

The city of Chicago has historically largely been Democratic and no Republican candidate has held the office of mayor since 1927. Regardless of the candidates’ party affiliation, today’s election has still been characterized by ideological divisions between Johnson’s progressive platform and Vallas’s moderate views. As Chicago is made up of distinct neighborhoods, the outcome of the election may very well depend on which candidate resonates more with its Black and Latino voters, to whom Johnson and Vallas have been appealing, respectively.

The costly race has seen both Vallas and Johnson raise multi-million dollar campaign funds before and after the initial mayoral election. The candidates invested heavily in their campaigns in order to compete for Chicago’s highest office, yet which of them will prevail remains to be seen.

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Emil Jones is a prominent former Illinois Senate president who endorsed Vallas in the Chicago mayoral runoff election. Mr. Jones is a well-known figure within Chicago’s Democratic Party and is credited for creating and funding numerous social programs while presiding over the state Senate. In the 2000s, Jones appointed Barack Obama to the Illinois Senate, kick-starting his political career that would eventually lead him to the U.S. presidency. Prior to his Senate presidency, Jones served as Chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus from 1989 to 1993, making him the first African American to ever hold the role.