CHICAGO ― On a rainy morning in the historic Bronzeville district earlier this month, Lori Lightfoot, Chicago’s embattled first-term mayor, was fired up. With more than twelve Black clergymen and small business owners as her support, she recounted Joshua’s biblical account of how he destroyed the wall of Jericho through his trumpeting of the horns. So, too, Lightfoot insisted, would her second term in office tear down the barriers to investment in the city’s underserved communities.
“This, ladies and gentlemen, is our Jericho moment!” The ministers behind her roared affirmation, and she declared.
The lyrical speeches were replaced by a short question-and-answer session with reporters. veteran Chicago journalist The discussion was redirected to the more serious matter of Lightfoot’s It is a treacherous road to victory.
Lightfoot must deal with the hatred from her right and her left. The reporter then asked her, “What’s the matter with your left?” “base” Can she claim the votes of residents in her city as hers?
“My base? My base is all over,” She replied. “You listen to people that have stood up and endorsed me ― all over Black Chicago, brown Chicago, white Chicago. From the tip of the city, from Roseland, all the way up to Rogers Park ― East and West.”
You can vote in Chicago’s nonpartisan, citywide elections comes to a close on Tuesday. (Early voting in the race to lead the country’s third-largest city began on Jan. 26.)
A two-person runoff is required if a candidate for the mayor does not receive more than half the votes.
Lightfoot is facing eight competitors: Paul Vallas, an ex-CEO of Chicago Public Schools and past city budget director; U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D); Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson (D); businessman Willie Wilson; activist Ja’Mal Greene; Illinois State Representative Kambium “Kam” Buckner (D); Chicago City Council Members Sophia King (D), and Roderick “Rod” Sawyer (D).
“When you are plotting a course that bounces between ideological lanes or some other category, you’re in this weird mush zone.”
Alyssa Cassis is a Democratic strategist
Because of the crowded field, almost everyone will lose in the first round. Lightfoot holds second in the standings, with only a few points. recent pollThe runoff will be contested by.
Vallas, a centrist and the only white candidate, is the consistent polling leader in Tuesday’s election, and some prognosticators believe he’s the front-runner. Vallas’ ties to more right-wing figures and groups have at once spooked progressives and emboldened Lightfoot, who portrays herself as the only viable alternative to Vallas’ bid.
The Sunday Review spoke with more than 30 rank-and file Chicago voters, two Christian ministers, four City Council members (often referred to as aldermen) and the top-five polling candidates in the mayor’s race.
The result is an image of a woman who has achieved great things, but was also plagued by problems that were not her fault and crises beyond her control.
Lightfoot is both Chicago’s first Black woman mayor and its first openly gay mayor, faces headwinds that would test any leader’s mettle. Her first term as an incumbent big-city mayor is up for grabs after she presided over the COVID-19 pandemic and the unrest that followed George Floyd’s murder.
The spike in crime has hit the racially segregated Windy City especially hard, given the disproportionate level of violence already plaguing predominantly Black, high-poverty neighborhoods on the city’s South and West sides.
Lightfoot’s failure to make it is likely because she has few friends due to her hard-to pin-down philosophy and reputation as abrasive.
“When you are plotting a course that bounces between ideological lanes or some other category, you’re in this weird mush zone,” Alyssa, who is a New York City-based Democratic strategist that has advised candidates in similar situations, stated. “You can say you’re not left and you’re not right, but that’s really hard to do. Are there enough people supporting you when you piss off the people on the left and the people on the right?”
“It’s sort of like a Goldilocks problem,” Casss “It’s easier to be too hot or too cold. But it’s harder to, say, sear something medium-rare.”
Progressives are disillusioned
Lightfoot is a former federal prosecutor, trial lawyer and had never been elected to office prior to her candidacy for the role of mayor. She turned that inexperience into an advantage, running as a bold reformer who got results as a watchdog for the city’s troubled police force under then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The affluent have a particularly strong performance in leveraging “lakefront liberal” neighborhoods Lightfoot, who was from the North Side, came first against 13 candidates during the first round municipal election. Lightfoot then won the runoff by a wide margin. In her inaugural addressLightfoot described a progressive vision of the city, in which the development of the city would not only be restricted to the skyscrapers at the Loop downtown, but also public schools that would offer a path for upward mobility, while residents who are less fortunate would have no fear of police misconduct or violent crime.
Almost immediately, the city’s sizable community of progressives and leftists, which had grown into a veritable force in the preceding years, became disillusioned by Lightfoot’s leadership.
Lightfoot’s Critics on the Left fault her for returning funding to mental health care previously cut through private providers instead of city-run clinicsWatering down the a civilian police oversight board She had been running on the idea of erecting an independent, elected government and fighting its creation. school board After campaigning for its adoption.
There are no consequences for officers who were involved in this incident. 2019 police raid of social worker Anjanette Young’s home also heightened progressive criticism of Lightfoot early on in her tenure. Young, who was being followed based upon a poor informant tip was stripped naked and was then handcuffed throughout the raid. The city then tried to block the release of the cops’ body-camera footage.
“She campaigned as a progressive reformer and then governed like Rahm 2.0,” Carlos Ramirez Rosa (D), Alderman of the Democratic Socialists of America, stated this.
Johnson’s former secretary Ramirez Rodriguez-Rosa supports Ramirez. Chicago Teachers Union organizer who has his union’s backing. Johnson, if elected, would be likely to become the most progressive mayor of New York. Chicago’s history. The heart of Johnson’s agenda is a budget plan The new revenues would be raised by an array of progressive tax rises, which are designed simultaneously to avoid homeowners increasing their property taxes.
Johnson is perhaps the only candidate in the race who is not promising to immediately fill the police department’s 1,600-person He proposed that instead of the current deficit, that $150 million be saved by the city to make efficiency improvements that would allow him to employ 200 extra detectives in internal promotions.
“My public safety plan is an investment plan that gets at the root causes while also addressing the immediate crisis that we are experiencing right now,” Johnson spoke to The Sunday Review during an interview.
Johnson has been experiencing an unusual last-minute boost. In the latest race, he finished third behind Lightfoot and Vallas. public pollVictory Research, an independently owned firm, conducted this study. If the results are accurate, Johnson will have surpassed García, once the city’s most influential progressive.
Johnson has become a target of his mayoral rivals because of this rise. ganged up on him In the last pre-election debate, Feb.
Lightfoot airs two ads Johnson was a supporter of “defunding the police,” Based on his sponsorship of an resolution In July 2020, Cook County will be called for “redirect” Resources from law enforcement to incarceration for social programs.
Her digital ad Uses video footage taken during a radio interview where Johnson speaks the word “defund” His efforts to divert resources from law enforcement are described below.
“I don’t look at it as a slogan. It’s an actual real, political goal,” Johnson states this in the advertisement.
Johnson does not call for any cuts at the moment. Chicago He would still support police funding but wouldn’t exclude them from the equation when they were needed. Chicago Tribune asked him recently. The Sunday Review also heard from him that his position had not changed in the past year since he sponsored the 2020 countywide resolution.
“You have to do what safe American cities do all over the country: You invest in people – that’s what the [Cook County] resolution calls for,” The Sunday Review was informed by him.
For progressive voters worried that Johnson goes too far, García, a veteran of the City Council and Cook County Board of Commissions before heading to Congress, offers a more familiar and less radical alternative.
García has argued for pairing recruitment of police officers with additional investment in underprivileged neighborhoods. It’s a platform similar to Lightfoot’s, but García says that new, more competent leadership is necessary to actually get it done.
“The type of leadership on the fifth floor makes a world of difference,” García told The Sunday Review, referencing the floor of City Hall that the mayor occupies.
Lightfoot has attacked García on the TV airwaves early and often, hitting him for benefiting from the largesse of FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried’s pandemic preparedness super PAC, which spent nearly $200,000 on García’s behalf in a Democratic primary in which he was uncontested. García has said he knew nothing about the spending or the reason for it and plans to honor a request by Bankman-Fried’s creditors to return Bankman-Fried’s individual $2,900 contribution Bankman-Fried is alleged to have swindled clients
Critiquing Lightfoot’s Style – And Substance
It is that Chicago Progressives favor candidates other than them despite Lightfoot’s reforms is only more evidence that Lightfoot should have never tried to accommodate them in the first place, according to Alderman Raymond Lopez (D), one of the City Council’s most conservative members and a harsh critic Her handling of civil unrest 2020.
“Now that they have completely rejected her for one of their own, she’s trying to come back to the middle and say, ‘Look, I’m as common-sense as you are,’” Lopez, who endorsed Willie Wilson, an entrepreneur multimillionaire, said Lopez. He wants cops to be safe. “hunt [criminals] like a rabbit.” “And people like myself and others are not going to let anyone forget that she’s nothing like us.”
Indeed, as Lopez’s outspokenness attests, progressives aren’t Lightfoot’s only critics – or even her main ones. There is a greater dissatisfaction among the public with the mayor because of poorer security.
The COVID-19 pandemic is escalating, as well as increased tensions with the police after the Minneapolis killing of George Floyd (May 2020). Chicago followed the national trend of higher crime ― only the effect was worse, because the city was starting from a higher baseline. There was more than 800 murders In Chicago In 2021 there will be more people than either. New York City Oder Los AngelesThese cities had larger populations, and also saw an increase in violent crime.
There are murders around the city dropped by 14% Their fourth highest point since 1999 remained unchanged from 2021 to 222. The number of car thefts as well as robberies has increased in the same time frame. orders of magnitude They are now higher than they were three years ago.
As usual, the crime wave has hit the city’s poorest neighborhoods hardest. But it’s not impossible. rash This is incidents In Chicago’s downtown business and shopping districts have been especially shocking to the city’s professional class, costing Lightfoot the support of many of the middle-class and affluent voters who put her in office.
Diane Andrews is a South Loop agent and had voted Lightfoot in 2019. Lightfoot’s “fresh perspective.”
“They need to give her a chance to play out her strategies with the police department, the community, crime and everything else.”
Kimberly Miller (voter), South Loop Neighborhood
After a meeting with Vallas’ former chief school district officer at an Italian restaurant near South Side, Andrews wore a Vallas Pin.
Andrews dislikes Lightfoot’s “combative style” and associates it with the city’s problems.
“It’s not productive,” Sie said. “Crime has gone up.”
Lightfoot, whose tenure has been marked by feuds with the city’s influential police and teachers unions, some business leadersMany members of this group are also available. City CouncilHer delivery can sometimes be a bit off-putting, as she has acknowledged repeatedly.
She is hoping voters judge her instead on the progress that she believes she’s made under difficult circumstances, touting her investment in economic development in underprivileged communities, a steady reduction in the city’s COVID-era budget shortfall and the arrival major new businesses including long-sought after companies casino. A Lightfoot TV ad In January, she even noted that she had presided over increases in police funding.
“We’re not at the finish line,” She spoke to The Sunday Review. “But there’s been a lot that’s been done to move things in the right direction.”
Her style has been criticized by her, she said. often These are the results of racism or sexism.
Kimberly Miller (a South Loop crime investigator) agreed with that viewpoint, saying that Lightfoot was being criticized too harshly for her gender.
“She came in when we had a lot going on in the city ― the pandemic ― but I think they need to give her a chance to play out her strategies with the police department, the community, crime and everything else,” Miller said so to The Sunday Review.
However, even if bias concerns are well-founded complaints about Lightfoot’s She is not only a hard-oning approach to governance that has been admired by white Chicagoans, but also conservatives and those who disagree.
Retiring Alderwoman Leslie Hairston (D), a member of the City Council’s progressive caucus who is neutral in the mayoral race, had long respected Lightfoot as a fellow Black woman attorney coming up at a time when there weren’t that many.
However, she was dismayed by the things that she saw. Lightfoot’s deliberate disregard for City Council members, blaming her for sometimes failing to invite aldermen at mayoral announcements within their wards or marginalizing them when she did invite them.
Note the notoriously bad temper of Rahm Emanuel Lightfoot’s Hairston said that being a tough-ass is not a part of his job description. Chicago mayor’s job description.
“I would never use the word ‘easy’ and Rahm in the same sentence, but you could understand where he was coming from,” Hairston answered. “Sometimes with this administration, there’s no rhyme or reason. She makes it more difficult.”
Lightfoot said that her political relationships would improve if she was asked by The Sunday Review.
Recognizing that the author had never met her, she accepted it. “vast majority” Lightfoot concluded by stating that the City Council members were not elected before taking office. “This has been a learning curve for both of us.”
Critics also have to be considered. Lightfoot’s right have a more ideological argument for why crime has gone up under her watch: that her efforts to rein in police abuses, however modest by the activist left’s standards, have made police officers afraid to act aggressively enough to be effective.
“She don’t let the cops do their job,” said Guadalupe Dominguez, an electrician from the North Side who is supporting García.
A particular sticking point is the Lightfoot administration’s implementation of a policy that forbids police officers from engaging in foot chases With people suspected of minor offences or people running away from officers. It is intended to stop frivolous police murders, which the federal government considers too common. ChicagoOfficers can pursue anyone they suspect is committing a crime, but the law still permits them to do so. It was specifically made to address the controversy surrounding police killings. Adam Toledo Anthony Alvarez Police foot pursuits will continue in 2021.
Some Chicagoans claim that police are too concerned about breaking the law to use the discretion necessary to protect people.
“People talk about racism. It’s not racism,” Leon Scott from Bronzeville, who is Black and wishes to have his feet fully restored, said that. “Nine times out of 10, if you think they have a gun on them, they have a gun on them.”
Lightfoot for her part sees criticism of Lightfoot from both the left and right as validation of the balance she’s striking.
“That tells me I’m probably right where I need to go,” She spoke to The Sunday Review.
Vallas’ Tightrope Walk
The centrist favourite in this race, Vallas is the current polling leader. He was hired to help troubled schools in Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Bridgeport in Connecticut after his stint in Chicago. For Illinois, he also unsuccessfully ran for the office of mayor in 2019. lieutenant governor in 2014 For the Democratic gubernatorial nomination 2002
Vallas has been a tireless advocate for public safety, and is well-known as a charter school proponent who does not fear fighting the teachers unions.
The Sunday Review interviewed Vallas while voters such as Andrews were rushing out of an Italian restaurant near the South Side to listen to him speak. Vallas made a double pitch about policing. He also laments over the criticisms of the liberal reforms and foot-pursuit policies by law enforcement. “general lack of support that [police officers] feel from the mayor’s office.”
However, he offered an extensive tactical criticism of the situation. Lightfoot’s Policing strategy controversial police superintendentDavid Brown is a candidate with progressive views. Vallas wants to replace Brown, return to a community-based policing model and use additional funding to shorten officers’ shifts ― all changes he maintains will “slow the exodus” of cops from the city’s force.
A similar statement is made by him about his accomplishments in the negotiation of the Chicago Police Department’s newest eight-year contract on behalf of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the city’s police union. Lightfoot, herself, has highlighted the contract’s new clauses Increased accountability and transparency for police misconduct.
Vallas’ hybrid message ― amplified with the help of deep-pocketed, right-leaning donors ― has helped him assemble a fragile coalition. He has the support of virtually all of the city’s most conservative voters, who are concentrated in largely white, blue-collar areas on the far northwest and far southwest sides, but he has also made inroads with the so-called lakefront liberals on the city’s North Side ― many of whom backed Lightfoot in 2019.
Members of the “lakefront” group ― composed mostly of white, affluent professionals ― share their working-class counterparts’ desire for lower crime, but are more turned off by reactionary rhetoric or the whiff of racism.
Linda Buckley, a retired businesswoman in River North (not, strictly speaking, a lakefront enclave), supported Lightfoot in 2019 and is now choosing between Vallas and García.
Vallas promised that the city would be tougher on crime. She also stated to The Sunday Review that she was. “a little nervous about an overreaction.”
Vallas’ ties to Chicago’s police union, the FOP, which has endorsed his bid, underscore the precariousness of his political balancing act as he seeks to lock down voters like Buckley. Chicago FOP President John Catanzara has a past of being a left-wing cartoon. misconduct allegations and racist comments or reactionsary. His rhetorical rap sheet includes the following: 2017 Facebook post Catanzara stated that Muslims were “Islamic”. “savages who deserve a bullet” Public apologetics For the Jan. 6th, 2021 U.S. Capitol Riot. He claimed it resulted in “very little destruction of property.”)
Asked for his response to Catanzara’s remarks, Vallas initially turned the question around, arguing that he shouldn’t have to answer for Catanzara’s remarks any more than he should have to answer for controversial statements made by Chicago Stacy Davis Gates, President of Teachers Union
“You should see some of the stuff that Stacy Davis Gates said. Google it!” According to him, The Sunday Review would know that it was his responsibility as mayor to bargain with the unions of public service, regardless who they elected. “Despite some of the most outrageous stuff that she has said, I’m going to have to negotiate with her.”
Vallas noted also that Catanzara was up for reelection, and may not be the mayor when the next mayor is elected.
“The type of leadership on the fifth floor makes a world of difference.”
– U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-Ill.)
But Vallas’ relationship to Catanzara is fundamentally different from his ties to other union leaders, since Catanzara is a prominent supporter of Vallas’ bid. Davis Gates isn’t being credibly charged with racism. Vallas even spoke Catanzara was also present at an FOP for retired cops this month.
Pressed to clarify his views on Catanzara’s comments, Vallas affirmed that he disagreed with the bigoted remarks and noted that he had publicly expressed revulsion about the U.S. Capitol riot.
Vallas continues to suffer from the FOP-related headaches. After news of the FOP’s imminent end, it was announced that they would be closing their offices on Feb. 17. Chicago FOP invited Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, R. to speak at Vallas rally for rank-and file police officers. condemned the event unequivocally, citing DeSantis’ “record of trying to erase the LGBTQ community” “banning books on Black history.”
Vallas describes himself as an “agent of change” “lifelong Democrat” In TV advertisements and has a campaign contribution record consistent with that description, has nonetheless given his rivals more than enough material with which to paint him as a closet Republican hoping to prey on the city’s racial demons.
Vallas stated to his supporters late January that his campaign was about “taking back our city.” Lightfoot claimed that he pandering was his strategy to appeal to racist whites when the comments were republished recently. “ultimate dog whistle.”
Vallas’ campaign said in a statement responding to the charge that it would not let Lightfoot “distract” Vallas on his mission “put crime and public safety first.”
Lightfoot is “desperately lashing out in every direction to cling to a spot in the runoff, even going as far as to suppress the vote if it helps her politically,” Vallas added.
Vallas defended his preference for minority and women-owned businesses when The Sunday Review asked him about the similar accusations Lightfoot made in February. city contractingHe has a history of using racially mixed staff. Cozette, a Black woman was employed by him. Vallas’ chief of staff At Chicago Public Schools, and followed him to New Orleans. Bridgeport. He is still a friend.
On Thursday, then, Chicago Tribune reported that Vallas’ campaign Twitter account had liked racist and insensitive tweets, including comments mockingly dubbing the mayor “Larry Lightfoot” She claimed that the chief of police was Black and she hired him.
Vallas stated that the statement was attributed to Vallas. “likes” Staff, and claimed he doesn’t run the account. He said the tweets’ “abhorrent and vile rhetoric does not represent me or my views.”
Vallas is less able to give good reasons for his flirtations and affiliations with the Republican Party. Vallas openly discussed running as a Republican 2009 Cook County Board of Commissioners President
The Sunday Review was told by him that he thought of it after being approached several times. The reason he did so was because the County Democratic Party was an arms of The Sunday Review. ChicagoThe -area political machine. Vallas discovered that he was the one who had actually won. “too many fundamental differences” With the GOP, which included his support for abortion rights. The mayoral hopeful was also recalled.
In a longer 2009 TV interview This has made Vallas the target of attacks ads. Vallas was far more ambivalent about joining with Republican Party. Vallas described himself as “more of a Republican than a Democrat.” The interviewer was also informed by him that he would “probably” Register as a Republican
‘They’You are Never Going To See You’
Lightfoot’s broadsides against Vallas don’t solely aim to polarize the race along partisan lines.
Lightfoot, who lacks a strong ideological foundation on the left and is losing the support of the white upper-middle class that helped her to rise in 2019, hopes to use Black support to secure a place in the April runoff.
This goal is hindered by the fact that six Black candidates are on the ballot. Wilson has shown a remarkable ability to win votes. He won the support of more conservative Black voters from the South Side, who gave him nearly 11% in 2019’s first round of mayoral voting.
Lightfoot is making a last-minute effort to persuade Black voters that she can be elected as the winning candidate.
“None of those folks who are on the ballot ― they’re never going to see the inside of the mayor’s office unless I invite them in!” Lightfoot spoke to a welcoming audience on February 11th in Austin’s West Side, a predominantly Black and impoverished neighborhood.
She then made remarks that were somewhat inconsistent with her claim to have a multicultural, cross-city community. “base” She spoke out at the clergy conference two days prior to laying out the stakes for ensuring that Black control continues in City Hall.
“Any vote for somebody not named Lightfoot is making sure that Chuy García or Paul Vallas runs your city,” Sie said. “And you know what’s going to happen if one of those jokers is in charge: They’re never going to see you! They don’t see the West Side.”
“He has history with former Mayor Harold Washington, but I think his allegiance will be to the Latino community.”
– Rev. Cy Fields, on Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García’s mayoral candidacy
The final candidate debate, Lightfoot also suggested that García is out of touch with Black voters. When García claimed that Lightfoot’s Because INVEST South/West’s development funds are not meeting their intended targets, she invited him to go on a tour of the communities where her flagship project is making an impact.
“I know you don’t know Black Chicago that well,” she quipped.
García noted that he lives in “K Town,” A nickname that refers to a group of West Side neighborhoods with many Black residents. “Maybe you don’t come there from Logan Square,” He shot back and referred to Lightfoot’s home In a historic, gentrifying neighborhood of Latinos on the Northwest Side.
Chicago, which is roughly evenly divided among Black, Latino and white residents, many voters still believe that one race’s well-being must come at the expense of another’s.
As a consequence, Lightfoot’s Some of her fans resonate with appeals for this zero-sum mentality.
García will “have to cater to those who put him in office,” Rev. The Sunday Review spoke with Cy Fields who was a Baptist minister, Lightfoot friend, and an advocate for the cause. “He has history with former Mayor Harold Washington, but I think his allegiance will be to the Latino community. And I think that will really change the political power shift for the Black community here in the city.”
García, who immigrated to Chicago From Mexico, as a young man 1965. Chicago’s first Latino mayor. But, aware of Black voters’ fears of being pushed aside, he has emphasized his pioneering support for Washington, the city’s first Black mayor in the 1980s, at a time when much of white Chicago It was open rebellion against Washington.
It has had an impact on at least some Black voters. Scott is one such voter.
“I think he’s going to take it to another level,” he said of García. “The Hispanics are moving up in the world today. They’re strong people. I work with them all the time.”