- Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas are facing off in the Chicago mayoral runoff election.
- The two candidates are running to succeed Lori Lightfoot, who was denied a second term in February.
- Voter concerns over public safety and education have been defining issues of the mayoral race.
Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson and former Chicago Public Schools chief executive Paul Vallas are facing off in Tuesday’s Chicago mayoral runoff election, which has been defined by voter concerns over public safety, education, and the state of the city’s economy three years after the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The winning candidate will succeed Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who was the third-place finisher in the initial Feb. 28 mayoral election behind Vallas and Johnson, respectively, missing her chance to compete in the runoff.
Polls in Chicago close at 7 p.m. local time.
A huge test for the progressive wing of the Democratic party
In the initial February election, Vallas won 32.9% of the vote and Johnson secured 21.6% support, while Lightfoot earned roughly 17% of the vote, with the incumbent mayor missing the cutoff for the runoff.
A win by Johnson — a former public school teacher and organizer for the Chicago Teachers Union — would be a soaring accomplishment for progressives in Chicago and across the country. He has been backed by prominent national figures including Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
Influential Illinois Democrats, including state Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Cook County Board of Commissioners president Toni Preckwinkle, and Representatives Jesús “Chuy” Garcia, Jonathan Jackson, Jan Schakowsky, and Delia Ramirez, have all thrown their support behind Johnson.
Garcia came in fourth place in the February mayoral election; in 2015, he was also a mayoral candidate, forcing then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel into a runoff election, which he eventually lost. His support for Johnson, who is Black, could boost him in the city’s majority-Latino wards, which are poised to play a decisive role in determining the winner.
Vallas’ campaign has centered on voter concerns over public safety, as he has pledged to aggressively fight crime in the city and hire up to 2,000 additional police officers. He is backed by the city’s police union and has received a striking level of support from high-profile Black leaders, including former Secretary of State Jesse White, former Rep. Bobby Rush, former Illinois Senate president Emil Jones, and former mayoral candidate and businessman Willie Wilson.
Chicago is unique electoral turf
Chicago is one of the bluest cities in the country, and Cook County, which is anchored by the city, has been of the most of the most reliably Democratic jurisdictions for generations.
The city has not elected a Republican as mayor since 1927.
While both Johnson and Vallas are running as Democrats, their divergent ideological splits have been a defining feature of the race and in many ways reflective of the city.
Chicago is a city of distinct neighborhoods. While many of the city’s neighborhoods are quite liberal, including areas like Hyde Park and Logan Square, there are also more moderate-to-conservative swaths, like Mount Greenwood and Norwood Park.
Johnson will surely do well in the city’s progressive centers, but he is also hoping to perform strongly with Black and Latino voters, while Vallas is poised to win among moderates, especially in the business-centric Loop and outlying city neighborhoods. Vallas also hopes to pick up enough support among the city’s Black and Latino voters to win a majority of the vote.
According to the Illinois State Board of Elections, Vallas raised $6.4 million in the lead-up to the initial February mayoral election and has raked in at least $10.9 million since March 1.
Johnson raised nearly $4 million before the February election and has taken in at least $5.8 million since March 1.