The homicide rate in Chicago doesn’t crack the top 10 in the U.S., though you wouldn’t know it from the mayor’s race. The eight challengers hoping to topple Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot this month are focused on the city’s violence — hammering on issues such as homicides, carjackings and robberies at every open microphone, Politico reports. The candidates' policy spectrum stretches from the far left, where there’s a call for police funding to be shifted to social services, to the far right, where a candidate wants suspected criminals hunted down “like a rabbit.” Throughout 2022, the political script was clear: Republicans in New York, Pennsylvania and elsewhere channeled voters’ attention to a pandemic-era spike in violence while Democrats did their best to talk about anything else. The Chicago brawl over crime is happening among candidates who all count themselves as Democrats. A dearth of public polling has given them space to question whether the city’s first Black female mayor, who swept the 2019 runoff, is vulnerable.
The intraparty strife has made the Chicago mayor’s race — one of the nation’s biggest elections since the 2022 midterms — a crucible for how high-profile urban Democrats everywhere are threading their messaging around policing, violence and racial justice ahead of2024. It's deeply personal for a city that’s regularly dragged onto the national stage for its crime, and where its South Side serves as political shorthand for gun violence even though St. Louis and Washington, D.C., see more homicides per capita. “It’s the only thing voters care about,” said Arne Duncan, the Obama-era Education secretary and Chicago native who considered a run for mayor himself. Sixty-one percent of Chicagoans were concerned about crime, Duncan, who runs Chicago CRED, a program that helps young Black men find jobs, citing a poll he ordered. The number two issue was the economy, at a distant 11 percent.