Chicago’s next mayor will be either progressive county commissioner Brandon Johnson or a former schools chief named Paul Vallas after incumbent mayor Lori Lightfoot was knocked out of the race Tuesday night
Why it matters: It’s a stunning upset for Lightfoot, a first-term incumbent who was Chicago’s first Black female and first openly gay mayor.
- She’s also the first sitting Chicago mayor to lose in four decades.
- No candidate won more than 50% of the vote, pushing Johnson and Vallas into a runoff to become mayor of America’s third-largest city.
The big picture: Lightfoot secured almost 75% of the vote in 2019, but her rough first term included a global pandemic, civil unrest over the police murder of George Floyd and rising crime.
- She also faced the departure of high-profile businesses from the city including Boeing, Citadel and Caterpillar, who left or relocated headquarters under Lightfoot’s watch.
Lightfoot was polling in third place behind Johnson with Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in fourth place. Her campaign confirmed to ABC7 that she called the Johnson campaign to concede shortly before addressing supporters at about 8:40 p.m.
Since no one candidate got 50% of the vote, voters will return to the polls for a runoff between the top two vote-getters on April 4.
Vallas has been a candidate before, but this is the first time he has ever won an election. He placed ninth out of 14 candidates four years ago when Lightfoot was elected.
Nine candidates are competing Tuesday for a chance to be Chicago’s next mayor. That includes Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who was elected in 2019 and is seeking her second term.
To win the office outright, a candidate needs to receive more than 50 percent of the vote. That’s unlikely with such a large field, so the race is expected to go to an April 4 runoff between the top two vote-getters.
The election is officially nonpartisan and is not considered or called a primary, though all the candidates seeking to lead the city, a Democratic stronghold, call themselves Democrats.
Johnson, in his speech Tuesday night, showed the first signs that he will seek to consolidate liberals who supported other candidates in the nine-person field. He cited each candidate by name.
“If you voted for one of those other candidates, I want you to know that I’m running to be the mayor of you, too,” Johnson said.
Because no candidate is on course to top 50% in Tuesday’s election, the top two of the nine candidates on the ballot are moving on to the April 4 runoff.
Lightfoot, the first Black woman and first out gay person to serve as mayor in a city often pilloried by conservatives in national debates over violence and gun control, rose to prominence as a pugnacious reformer promising a break from the corruption and clubby governance that had long marked Chicago politics.
But years of contentious brawls over policing, teacher pay and Covid-19 public safety policies, as well as mounting complaints about long waits in Chicago’s public transit system, left Lightfoot vulnerable, raising the stunning prospect of the Second City ousting its incumbent mayor in the first round of voting.
Lightfoot found herself with few allies in her bid for a second term, and a host of powerful interests aligned against her. The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Vallas. The Chicago Teachers Union backed Johnson. Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, with whom Lightfoot has clashed, stayed out of the race entirely.
More than 507,000 ballots had been cast by the time polls closed Tuesday, Chicago elections officials said. More mail-in votes will be added to that total as they arrive.
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