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Chicago Mayoral Race Outcome May Show Voters' Views On Public Safety

A majority of Chicago voters ousted incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot in the mayoral primary. With just under 17% of the vote, Lightfoot became the first mayor not to advance to the runoff election. In one month, the general election could serve as a bellwether for how Democratic voters across the nation think about crime, a topic that became deeply politicized during an uptick in violence during COVID-19 and the calls for police reform after George Floyd's murder, reports The Guardian. In the primary, Lightfoot attempted to market herself as a moderate candidate. Many voters bolted in one of two other directions: to Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, the most progressive option, and Paul Vallas, the former CEO of Chicago public schools, the most conservative. Vallas, who came in ninth place in his last run for mayor in 2019, ripped a page from the Republican playbook with a law-and-order message. On election night, he placed crime at the forefront of his campaign, declaring public safety a “civil right”. He also received an endorsement from the Fraternal Order of Police, along with its Trump-supporting president John Catanzara, and has pledged to fill Chicago’s 1,700 police vacancies.

Johnson’s résumé as a former teacher and Chicago Teachers Union deputy political director puts him at odds with Vallas. Johnson’s progressive approach toward criminal justice would include a mental health hotline and eliminating no-knock warrants. He also committed to ending the city’s contract with ShotSpotter, which the city’s own inspector general found “rarely leads to evidence of a gun-related crime”. Johnson and Vallas agree on some policy issues, including changing the Chicago police department’s patrol plan to allocate more police officers during high crime hours. Both have backed boosting the number of detectives so that police can solve more murders. How the two candidates communicate their message on crime to Black voters will prove crucial. In the primary, Johnson got support from white progressives on the North Side but in order to beat Vallas, he’ll have to court Hispanics on the West Side who voted for his progressive rival. For Vallas, the endorsement from the Fraternal Order of Police will either become his winning advantage or his Achilles heel.


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