Chicago’s Contentious Mayoral Election


Image by David Mark from Pixabay.

Lori Lightfoot made history as the first black and openly gay mayor of Chicago and has made history once again as the first Chicago mayor to lose a reelection campaign in 40 years. But what was the reason for her failure to be reelected? Lori Lightfoot’s main reason for losing reelection was crime: Since her election in 2019, overall crime has gone up 60%, with the biggest increase being in motor vehicle theft at a massive 270% increase. This statistic is especially important because according to a poll, 44% of Chicago residents say crime and public safety are their number one concerns. Given Chicago’s crime increase since Lightfoot’s election, it’s clear she is not the candidate to address these concerns. So, if Lori Lightfoot is out, then who is in?

Paul Vallas

Paul Vallas is a Democrat and has worked in the government for decades, usually in positions revolving around budgeting problems. Vallas plans to address numerous problems facing Chicagoans such as reproductive rights, immigration, public transportation, mental health, taxes, education, fees, police reform (specifically the Consent Decree: read more here), and his specialty, the budget. Vallas is very much a liberal: He is pro-choice, pro-immigration, plans to support public education,  and expedite police reform. Notably, on Vallas’ website he has an entire section devoted to how he would improve public safety and policing in Chicago, showing his dedication to Chicagoans’ number one priority.

Brandon Johnson

Brandon Johnson is also a Democrat who began his career as an educator and has worked as the commissioner for the 1st District of Cook County. Johnson is using his time as a teacher in the West Side to demonstrate his understanding of problems facing Chicagoans. On his “on the issues” section of his website, he highlights his desire to increase public school funding and funding for other public welfare projects. He discusses his ideas regarding education, affordable housing, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and reproductive rights, police reform, public safety, and transportation.

Let’s take a look at the three most important issues to Chicagoans and the candidates’ positions on them.


Crime & Public Safety

This is by far the most important issue to Chicago voters with 44% of voters listing it as their number one priority. Vallas has a large page on his campaign site addressing his plans for public safety in depth. Vallas plans to increase the police force from 11,710 officers to 13,500, dismantle the “Friends and Family” promotion system (which essentially made it easier for police officers to be promoted if they knew other higher ranking officers), establish a witness-protection system, create a forensics crime lab in department, reinstitute community policing, and much more. Johnson has a similarly in-depth page on his plans for public safety. Johnson plans to enact a number of reforms on his first day as mayor including promoting 200 more detectives, clamping down on illegal firearms, and establishing a number of new initiatives and committees. Johnson also hopes to invest in youth programs in an attempt to keep young people from turning to crime, an idea that is supported by the fact that the majority of voters felt that more job training and economic opportunities would be the best way to combat crime. Johnson also hopes to expand support for victims and survivors and to reestablish and expand city mental health services. Lastly, Johnson plans to increase police accountability. 


Criminal Justice Reform

Paul Vallas has no page on his campaign site for criminal justice reform and seems more focused on stopping crime than addressing what happens to those accused of them. However, in his most recent debate with Johnson on CBS he said he hoped to establish a zero-tolerance policy for police conduct, but never went into detail. Johnson, on the other hand, has a lot more to say on the matter. He plans to enact the Anjanette Young Ordinance (which would end no-knock warrants), close Homan Square (an off-the books detention facility where people were often denied their constitutional rights), end the ShotSpotter contract, delete the Gang Database (which was inaccurate and often racially motivated), publish arrest demographic information, enact the Federal Consent Decree, terminate officers associated with right-wing extremist groups, collaborate with CCPSA and district councils on CPD policy, and strengthen CAPS (Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy).


The Economy and Jobs

Vallas has a page on his campaign site dedicated to his plans for economic development in Chicago. Vallas vows to revitalize communities, not replace them. In order to do this he plans to develop a Community Development Authority made of community contractors and organizations which would help renovate homes and provide loans to people and businesses in their communities, all done without having to get approval from the wider city government. Vallas will attempt to reacquire and reuse vacant lots. Lastly, he wants to make a Fair Share investment Trust to reinvest in businesses, with priority given to the CDA. He also plans to create an Adult Education and Occupational Training Network to coordinate occupational and educational adult training programs. Brandon Johnson has no page on his site discussing the economy or jobs, I did find this document however was unable to find the original source. It appears Johnson only discusses his tax plans and budget plans for the city regarding social welfare, but not the economy. 

The run off election between Vallas and Johnson will be on April 4. For more information on these candidates watch their debates and check out their campaign sites.