CHICAGO — Then there were two.
With none of the nine candidates running for mayor hitting the 50.1% or more threshold for an outright victory, the election for Chicago mayor moves to a runoff. Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson will face off April 4.
Incumbent Lori Lightfoot came in third place. Lightfoot conceded Tuesday night, calling her run as the city’s top elected official “the honor of a lifetime.”
Here’s what you need to know about the two candidates and where they stand on key issues:
Vallas, 69, is a former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, a position he held from 1995-2001. Before serving as CEO of CPS, he served as city budget director. After leaving CPS, Vallas led school districts in Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Bridgeport, Connecticut.
He ran for governor of Illinois in 2002, losing to Rod Blagojevich, before running as Pat Quinn’s running mate in 2014, when they lost to Bruce Rauner. Vallas also ran for mayor of Chicago in 2019, getting 5.4% of the vote in a 14-person field.
Many challengers have tried to boost an interview that Vallas did more than a decade ago talking about his opposition to abortion. Vallas said the opinion is personal and tied to his Greek Orthodox faith. He said he will protect Chicago’s status as an abortion safe haven if elected.
The center of Vallas’s platform is crime. He has been a constant critic of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and wants to return to a more community policing-centric strategy with the Chicago Police Department.
A point of emphasis for Vallas has been him pushing for a ‘Public Nuisance Ordinance’ that would focus on enforcing and prosecuting misdemeanor crimes discarded by the state’s attorney’s office.
He has also said he wants to implement a witness protection program in Chicago, despite the state having one that is already rarely used, and fund it using fines and what he calls “seized assets.”
Vallas also has said he will further implement helicopters and drones to stop carjackings and create a city crime lab to help trace guns.
Vallas said he would fire CPD Superintendent David Brown if elected, wants to stop merit promotions within the department and build the department back up to 13,500 sworn police officers. A part of his strategy to rebuild CPD’s numbers back to 13,500 would be to bring in retired officers for extra support and eliminate city residency requirements for recruits.
Additionally, he said he would like to create a case review unit so CPD could review Kim Foxx and the state’s attorney’s office’s decisions.
Vallas is also endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police.
Vallas wants to create an Independent Community Development Authority to be independent of City Hall politics. Made up of community contractors and organizations they could renovate homes, finance small businesses, social services and more, all funded by city finances. Wants to repurpose vacant lots and give people grants to reuse.
Vows to keep schools open longer and through weekends and holidays. Wants to create high school work study programs and open Adult High Schools for occupational training. Vallas supports a controversial school voucher program, which would take TIF funds to provide tuition help to families send kids to private schools. Wants to convert under-enrolled schools to open enrollment magnet schools and lift enrollment caps on charter schools.
Wants to use CTA private security funds to hire more CPD officers that will be stationed at CTA platforms.
Johnson is 46 years old and the current Cook County Commissioner, first elected back in 2018. He has touted his work eliminating Cook County’s version of a gang database and his work combating housing discrimination in Chicago.
Before public office, Johnson was a CPS teacher and paid organizer with the Chicago Teachers’ Union, through which he helped organize the 2019 CPS teachers strike.
Johnson jumped into the Chicago mayor’s race early and got the backing of several unions and sitting lawmakers. Of note, the CTU, American Federation of Teachers, and SEIU have put nearly $3 million into his campaign so far.
One of his sticking points during his campaign when describing himself has been that he and his wife are West Side residents raising three children in the Austin neighborhood.
Johnson has said he would establish a Mayor’s Office of Community Safety to coordinate violence prevention with all agencies. He also said he wants to cancel the city’s contract with ShotSpotter and reopen mental health centers.
Johnson has also emphasized a focus on youth and building a trauma response network through CPS while expanding support for victims, among other things.
Another platform point of Johnson’s campaign has been that he would establish a new CPD Illegal Guns Department if elected.
Johnson has said he would fire CPD Superintendent David Brown, but has not committed to filling CPD officer vacancies. Instead, he has said he wants to train and promote 200 detectives from within department.
Johnson also said he supports an end to ‘no-know’ warrants and closing the Homan Square police facility. He said he will fire officers affiliated with hate groups like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys.
Johnson has denied wanting to “defund” police, but has said he will “invest in people” instead.
Johnson has promised to stop automatic property tax increases and has said he will find $500 million to save with a full scale audit of spending.
Johnson said he would also reinstate a $4-a-month per employee head tax for large companies and implement a Metra surcharge for suburbanites coming into Chicago.
He also said he plans to hike the hotel tax, add a tax on jet fuel, and pass the ‘mansion’ tax by increasing transfer taxes on expensive homes, if elected. A group he is affiliated with has supported raising income taxes on Chicagoans making more than $100k a year… though Johnson has denied this is part of his plan.
Johnson has a 12-point plan for ‘education justice.’
This includes pushing for free child care for all by making corporations “pay what they owe in taxes,” give City Colleges an elected board, overhaul the CPS funding formula in Springfield, replace heating and cooling systems in schools, increase accessibility for people with disabilities, and create an apprenticeship pipeline.
Johnson also said he wants to implement “anti-racist” curriculum district-wide.
Johnson has faced backlash online by some progressives over comments that he doesn’t support undocumented immigrants’ right to vote in municipal elections. Johnson later said he wants to allow undocumented immigrants to vote in school board elections and create a non-citizen advisory board.
He has said he wants to increase funding for immigrants bused here from other states, among other things.
Johnson has said he wants to launch a CTA Violence Intervention Program with community organizations connecting people in need with housing and mental heath services, while also waiving fares for CPS students year-round.
Johnson has said he will “fully staff” CTA by working with labor partners and promises to push for accurate CTA schedule information.