Speed Reads

Chicago Votes

Progressive candidate Brandon Johnson wins Chicago mayoral race

Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, a union organizer and former high school teacher, won Chicago's hard-fought mayoral election on Tuesday, narrowly defeating former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas. Johnson's support from the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and other organized labor proved pivotal in the heated five-week runoff race, which started with Johnson as the underdog. Both candidates beat Mayor Lori Lightfoot in the first round of voting, making her the first Chicago mayor in 40 years to lose her re-election bid.

Vallas said at his election night party that he had "called Brandon Johnson and told him that I absolutely expect him to be the next mayor of Chicago," and he urged his supporters to united behind the mayor-elect. 

Johnson, 47, and Vallas, 69, both ran as Democrats, but Johnson, who is Black, was the more progressive of the two. Vallas had the backing of the police union and had promised to hire new cops to tamp down crime. Johnson, who had once called for "defunding" the police, vowed he would not cut "one penny" from the police budget but would focus on crime prevention, in part by funding social programs. 

Vallas outspent Johnson two-to-one, raising more than $17.6 million versus Johnson's more than $10 million, The Washington Post reports. "Vallas' backers include wealthy people with a history supporting Republican candidates and causes like school privatization, while the bulk of Johnson's support has come from CTU-aligned groups like the liberal United Working Families." Vallas' funding sources and some of his comments "left voters in this overwhelmingly Democratic city believing he is an anti-abortion, pro-voucher Republican," the Chicago Sun-Times adds. Endorsements from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), former Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), and other prominent Democrats couldn't dislodge that impression.

"To the Chicagoans who did not vote for me," Johnson said at his victory party, "here's what I want you to know: That I care about you. I value you and I want to hear from you. I want to work with you. And I'll be the mayor for you, too. Because this campaign has always been about building a better, stronger, safer Chicago for all the people of Chicago."