Chicago mayor defeated in re-election bid

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has become the first mayor in 40 years to lose re-election after voters ousted her in a tightly contested race. Lori Lightfoot couldn’t gather enough votes in a field of nine candidates. She won’t be in the run-off election in April. Paul Vallas, a former chief executive of Chicago Public Schools, emerged as the top vote-getter, winning 35% of the total votes cast, while Brandon Johnson, a county government commissioner, placed second with 20% of the votes.

Law and Order Theme in the Election

The mayoral election was dominated by fears over crime. Vallas hammered on the theme of public safety, which resonated with his political base of white conservative voters. His campaign message won the backing of the city’s police union, which he represented in contract negotiations. He raised $5.1mn, mostly from Republican donors. Vallas’s campaign strategist, Joe Trippi, acknowledged the centrality of crime in the race, saying that “if you’re not safe to walk the streets, nothing really matters.”

However, Vallas did attract controversy during the race. A Chicago Tribune investigation finding that his Twitter account had liked posts that used homophobic language to refer to Lightfoot and praised the controversial police tactic of “stop-and-frisk.” Vallas denied sharing the views of the posters. Vallas said that someone hacked his account.

Run-Off between Vallas and Johnson

Vallas and Johnson are headed for a run-off on April 4. No candidate won more than 50% of the votes. It is only the third such contest in the city’s history, with the first one occurring eight years ago when Jesus “Chuy” Garcia forced then-mayor Rahm Emanuel into a run-off. About 32% of registered voters in Chicago cast their ballots in the election. The Chicago board of elections will begin counting another 99,000 mail-in ballots on Wednesday.

Lightfoot’s Progressive Campaign in 2019

Lori Lightfoot campaigned as a progressive in 2019 and was elected by voters outraged over political corruption in City Hall. Her tenure was marked by the Covid-19 pandemic. There was also civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd and a homicide rate that peaked in 2021. Although the homicide rate fell last year, it remains higher than when Lightfoot took office. Other crime categories, such as carjackings, have also risen.

Lightfoot’s Difficulty in Working with Allies

Lightfoot lost support due to her difficulty in working with allies. Four years ago, she defeated a well-known candidate. Toni Preckwinkle, who had won most of her races, only to lose to Vallas. Lori Lightfoot campaigned as the first black lesbian to run the third-largest city in the US. Lightfoot said in her concession speech, “I will be rooting and praying for our next mayor to deliver in the years to come. Obviously, we didn’t win the election, but I stand here with my head held high.”

In a city where racial politics have long played a significant role in the mayoral race, there may be an underlying issue of white voters seeking a white candidate to solve the problems. According to Delmarie Cobb, a longtime Chicago political operative, racial segregation in Chicago has led to criminal activity in many black neighborhoods. Furthermore, with crime rates increasing in more affluent and white areas, it has become a central issue in the upcoming mayoral election. As a result, voters have set the run-off election between Vallas and Johnson for April. Nevertheless, the question of who will lead the city of Chicago in the years to come remains unanswered.


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