Chicago’s Next Mayor Faces Tech Jobs and Crime Surge

Who’s Mayor of Chicago?

Chicago’s next mayor must tackle a dual crisis: tech jobs and convention business have poured into the city while homicides and property crime are surging. Johnson, backed by the teachers union and other labor groups, did well in Black wards while Preckwinkle struggled to win over progressives.

Johnson consolidated Democratic support by promoting more than just police funding. He also pushed to boost youth employment programs and mental health treatment.

Lori Lightfoot

Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor, first entered public service as an assistant United States attorney and later served on the Chicago police board and police accountability task force. She was a top choice to replace Rahm Emanuel as mayor, but her bid was marred by a series of scandals, including her refusal to fire the city’s embattled police superintendent and a tussle with police unions over civilian oversight.

Lightfoot used the COVID-19 pandemic to launch a number of recovery programs and narrow Chicago’s budget deficit, but she also struggled with violent crime. Homicides rose during her term, even as she pushed for more federal resources to help police fight the problem.

When Lightfoot failed to win reelection in February, onlookers expected it to be the beginning of the end of her career. But she rebounded to make it to the runoff against Vallas and Brandon Johnson, who have the support of the city’s two most powerful labor unions.

Paul Vallas

In the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s runoff, Johnson and Vallas spent time courting voters who did not support either candidate in the first round of voting in February. Vallas, a 69-year-old who is white, has strong support in downtown and largely White ethnic neighborhoods in the northwest and southwest sides.

He argues that Chicago is facing an emergency and wants to focus on education, jobs, development and policing. His campaign has highlighted his experience as a bold reformer who led struggling schools in Philadelphia, New Orleans and Bridgeport, Conn.

But progressives say he has been insufficiently critical of police, and they also dislike his past stances on charter schools and a claim that he is more of a Republican than a Democrat. He has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police and won the backing of former mayoral candidates Willie Wilson and Ja’Mal Green. He has promised to bolster the city’s police force.

Brandon Johnson

A public school teacher who once worked in Room 309 of Jenner Academy in Cabrini-Green and later at Westinghouse College Prep on the west side, Johnson was recruited for the race by the Chicago Teachers Union. He fought alongside them during the 2019 strike and has vowed to support teachers while tackling issues like gun violence, education inequality and a migrant crisis that could derail growth.

On crime, he has promised to increase police accountability and boost investments in mental health services and violence prevention programs. But he has also called to rethink the city’s strategy of directing funds from policing toward non-law enforcement services.

He has also backed a real estate transfer tax and called for an efficiency review of the city’s budget in order to boost spending on police. He has walked back comments he made that some view as supportive of efforts to “defund the police,” and he says he would promote more police detectives rather than reducing the force’s overall size.

Willie Wilson

After a two-year hiatus from electoral politics, Willie Wilson is back. The businessman is running for mayor, a post he has sought three times before. He’s focused on the economy and crime, arguing that Chicago isn’t safe and that taxes are too high.

A philanthropist, Wilson has a reputation for helping people. He has hosted free gas and food giveaways, donated to hospitals and community organizations and created a loan fund for homeowners behind on property tax payments.

He’s also a frequent candidate, and he’s already locked horns with Lightfoot and Vallas on issues like police reform and community safety. As a former aide to the Fraternal Order of Police, he helped negotiate an eight-year contract that ended Chicago’s longest labor stalemate. He believes that his experience makes him a stronger choice for mayor than Lightfoot or Vallas.

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