By Jim Ellis — Wednesday, March 1, 2023
Mayoral Race: Lightfoot Loses in Chicago — The Chicago non-partisan mayoral primary is unofficially complete and as recent polling suggested was a possible outcome, incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) fell in defeat last night without even qualifying for the secondary runoff election.
Chicago Public Schools former CEO Paul Vallas and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson will advance to the April 4 election, and that vote will decide who becomes the new mayor. Vallas secured first place with 172,093 votes, translating into 33.9 percent preference. Commissioner Johnson scored 103,387 votes, or 20.3 percent.
Mayor Lightfoot finished a poor third in the field of nine candidates. She only recorded 86,952 votes for just 17.1 percent support. To put this number in perspective, almost 83 percent of the people voting chose a candidate other than the incumbent, an incredibly poor performance for any office holder.
In the 2019 election, Lightfoot secured 97,667 votes, or 10,715 more votes than she received last night. In the runoff from four years ago, Lightfoot was subsequently a landslide 74 percent winner over then-Cook County Commission President Toni Preckwinkle.
Turnout from the last two primaries was similar. At this point, more than 509,556 votes have been recorded, but this will not be the final total. In 2019, a total of 518,194 ballots were cast in the primary election.
US Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Chicago), who began as the campaign’s polling leader, finished fourth with 70,006 votes and 13.7 percent. He returns to the House to finish the new term he won last November.
Conversely, Vallas greatly improved his standing since the 2019 mayoral election. In fact, he completed a worst to first turnaround, since he finished dead last four years ago within a different field of nine candidates. In that year, Vallas managed to only garner 30,236 votes or just 5.4 percent. Therefore, at this point with post-election reception ballots still to count, he will likely improve his standing by more than six times his previous vote total.
It appears crime was the driving issue; that explains both Vallas’ rise to the top, since he is the most ardent supporter of tough penalties for law breakers, and Lightfoot’s fall from political grace, largely due to her image of being soft on criminals.
Since she took office, according to Chicago Police Department crime statistics, murder had increased 59 percent, but that number pales in comparison to motor vehicle theft, which rose 270 percent during the same period. While theft and robbery increased 31 and 27 percent, respectively, during her tenure, burglary actually decreased 18 percent. Sexual crimes also decreased in the four-year period, by two percentage points.
Though a Democrat, Vallas was clearly the most conservative candidate in the non-partisan primary race and his runoff campaign against the more progressive Commissioner Johnson promises to be an interesting one.
Vallas will likely continue making the election a referendum on the crime and safety issue. Since Commissioner Johnson is known to favor less strict protocols for combating crime, a contrasting campaign on this issue will be Vallas’ clear strategic goal.
Johnson will attack the former schools CEO over his pro-life position, and attempt to make the election about a broad-based group of issues, thus allowing him to strike an overall ideological contrast.