This February, Chicago will have its municipal election. To help you prepare, we have put together this guide, which includes: a breakdown of the candidates seeking the office of Mayor as well as a tool to help you find out who’s running for alderman or Police District Representative in your area.
Office of the Mayor
- Background: Lightfoot made history as the first Black, LGBT woman to head Chicago. Quickly after, the Harold Washington comparisons began to trickle in, but this dissipated as her name became involved in scandal after scandal.
- Endorsements: U.S. Representatives Danny Davis, Bobby Rush, and Robin Kelly all endorsed Lightfoot back in July according to Crain’s Business Chicago. Additionally, she was endorsed by Plumbers Local Union 130 UA, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Secretary of State Jesse White, and Ald. Walter Burnett
- Accomplishments: Lightfoot eliminated library debt, raised the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and brought in crisis workers to partner with the Chicago Police Department and act as crisis responders. Additionally, she recently sought $54 Million to assist migrants from Texas.
- Controversies: She has diverted COVID-19 relief money to the police, gotten into verbal altercations with her staff, and banned youth from Millennium Park, unless they were attending Lollapalooza. According to Audacy, city council members charged Lightfoot with “not keeping promises on a Department of the Environment, police recruiting, and funding for homelessness.” She additionally supported qualified immunity and forced students to return to in-person learning, causing students to stage a mass walkout. In her most recent controversy, a campaign contributor was able to lease land designated for public housing, according to ProPublica.
- Background: Brandon Johnson is a former rank-and-file organizer with the Chicago Teacher’s Union. In 2018, he became the 1st District’s Cook County Board Commissioner, a position he has held since then. Brandon has been endorsed by the Chicago Teacher’s Union and promises to improve Chicago by providing safe, vibrant neighborhoods, affordable housing, healthcare for all, and fully funded schools. His mayoral website can be found here.
- Endorsements: Johnson has been endorsed by the Chicago Teacher’s Union, the Service Employee International Union Healthcare Illinois (SEIU HCIl), and SEIU Local 73, among others, which can be found on his campaign website.
- Accomplishments: Johnson has emphasized his teaching background as a way he plans to improve the city. In Chicago over the last few years, education has been a point of contention between stakeholders and the mayor’s office, so this will be important in this election. Additionally, the Chicago Tribune noted that, “In Johnson’s time on the county board, he’s pushed a measure making it illegal to refuse to show or rent property to people with certain criminal records. He also drafted a symbolic resolution that supported diverting money from policing in the wake of nationwide protests demanding police budgets be defunded.”
- Controversies: At the time of publication, Johnson has not been attached to any controversy.
To learn more about Johnson, check out this article from South Side Weekly.
Buckner on why he’s running for Mayor of Chicago:
- Background: Kam Bucker is a US State Representative currently vying for a spot in Chicago’s mayoral office. Buckner touts a four-prong plan to improve Chicago by addressing: safety and justice, improved education, economic opportunity, and to stabilize Chicago’s finances. His campaign website can be found here. As a U.S. State Representative, Buckner sponsored many pivotal bills including an elected school board in Chicago.
- Endorsements: According to the online Voting Guide Vote Smart, Kam Buckner has been endorsed by the following organizations: Chicago Federation of Labor, Chicago Teachers Union, the Faith in Place Action Fund, the Illinois AFL-CIO, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, a Personal PAC, and Planned Parenthood Illinois Action.
- Accomplishments: He has co-sponsored bills that authorized mental health workers as first responders (2022), prohibited ICE contracts (2021), required police to keep racial profiling records (2019), and increased teachers’ salaries to $40,000 (2019). He also voted “Yes” on prohibiting cash bail, which comes as activists are calling for the passage of the Pre-trial fairness act. Read more about his full record here.
- Controversies: WBEZ reported that in 2015, Buckner took over World Sport Chicago, a nonprofit set to bring Olympic games to impoverished youth. Yet, “while Buckner carried out that mission for several years, World Sport Chicago slowly dissolved, its finances diminished, and money spent on programming for kids decreased during his tenure. This all came as documents show Buckner’s salary nearly tripled, from $137,352 to $364,159 in just four years” and the organization was dissolved.
- Background: Paul Vallas, a native of Roseland and Palos Heights, served as the CEO of the Chicago Public School District from 1995 to 2001 under Mayor Richard M. Daley. He is a career politician who has pursued the mayoral office before, as well as the Illinois Governor and Lieutenant governor under Pat Quinn. In his second mayoral bid, he plans to address the city’s budget, education and crime should he be elected as mayor. His campaign website can be found here.
- Endorsements: Paul Vallas has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, according to the Chicago Tribune.
- Accomplishments: According to Vallas, he “took over the school district when it had a $1 billion structural deficit and left them with $1 billion in cash and 70,000 more students than they have today.” A Sun-times fact check found that while this was mostly true, Chicago had some demographic changes that could have contributed to this as well.
- Controversies: Vallas has been criticized for his public school reforms. The Chicago Sun-times noted, “During Vallas’ six years with the district, and for several years following his tenure, CPS paid next to nothing toward teacher pension costs, leading to big financial problems down the road. The Vallas era at CPS coincided with the dot.com bubble that sent markets soaring, helping the pension fund stay healthy even without the annual injections of cash it began missing out on.” Additionally, the Chicago Reader noted that he “rubbed shoulders with the far-right” by attending a fundraiser for a group that has been openly transphobic.
- Background: Ald. Sophia King currently serves Chicago’s fourth ward. An Evanston native by way of the Mississippi Delta, she was educated at Northwestern University, and she has been in office since 2016. In her 18-page Safety and Justice plan, she focuses on police reform heavily. Her plan includes restructuring the CPD’s staff, violence intervention, and what she calls “more effective” policing strategies. Check out the full plan here.
- Endorsements: King has been endorsed by the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Suntimes, Hyde Park Herald, and the SEIU, among others. Her full list of endorsements can be found here.
- Accomplishments: While serving the 4th Ward, King founded Harriet’s Daughters, which sought to eliminate inequity in Black communities. She also sponsored legislation for an “Honorary Muddy Waters” drive. According to her website, she has fought for police reforms that “ensure they have the resources and personnel to better stop the violence which all too often breaks out in our communities. She rejects the one-dimensional calls to either arrest our way out of our public safety issues or defund the police.”
- Controversies: At the time of publication, King has not been attached to any widely known controversy.
- Background: Jesus “Chuy” Garcia is a representative for the 4th Congressional District of the United States. He was born in Durango, Mexico, and he immigrated to the United States in 1965. Self-described as a “progressive voice,” he serves on “Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), the Congressional Equality Caucus, Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, and New Americans Caucus” and he also founded “the Future of Transportation Caucus,” his website says.
- Endorsements: Garcia has been endorsed by Teamsters Local 727 and IUOE Local 150. According to the Chicago Tribune, Garcia earned a $1 Million campaign contribution from IUOE Local 50.
- Accomplishments: In 2019, when he first entered Congress, he was a co-sponsor of the Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act, which made lynching a federal hate crime, and the For The People Act, which would allow mass voting access. He voted yes on the Paycheck Protection Program in 2020, and he voted yes on impeaching Donald Trump in 2021, following the January 6 insurrection. See his full voting record here.
- Controversies: Garcia received a campaign donation from Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced founder of FTX, a cryptocurrency. WBEZ reported that Bankman-Fried donated $2,900 and Garcia’s team reported that they “donated an equal amount to charity” following Bankman-Fried’s federal indictment.
- Background: Roderick Sawyer, alderman of the 6th ward, is a 6th ward native. Serving the Southside communities of Chatham, Englewood, and Greater Grand Crossing, per the new ward map. His legislative priorities, according to his website, are education, public safety, and economic stability. He currently serves as “Chairman of the Health and Human Relations Committee, a member of the Progressive Reform Caucus, and the former Chairman of the African American Caucus,” his Wiki states.
- Endorsements: At the time of publication, Rwebel could not find any endorsements for Sawyer.
- Accomplishments: According to NBC 5, Sawyer proposed an ordinance to remove police from schools, along with Ald. Jeanette Taylor and Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa. This ordinance followed the 2020 uprisings in response to police brutality when officers had received 2,354 complaints. However, the ordinance was ultimately rejected by the school board, an Injustice Watch article noted.
- Controversies: At the time of publication, Rwebel could not find any controversies for Sawyer.
- Background: Dr. Willie Wilson is a local philanthropist and businessman. To accumulate wealth, he owned and sold McDonald’s franchises. In 2015, he was appointed to Bruce Rauner’s transition team. This same year, he ran for mayor then again in 2019. As mayor, he plans to “rebuild Chicago.” Read more on his platform here.
- Endorsements: Wilson has been endorsed by Ald. Ray Lopez and the Polish-American Congress’ Illinois Division.
- Accomplishments: Leading up to his current mayoral run, he gave away $2 Million in free gas and groceries. Wilson won public favor when he did this.
- Controversies: Wilson admitted to voting for former President Trump. Additionally, he was accused of handing out money during his 2019 campaign. Some construed this as buying votes, to which he said that this was grant funding given away through an application. This year, Wilson was accused of trying to bribe Ja’Mal Green to get Green to drop his petition challenge.
- Background: Ja’Mal Green, the youngest candidate on the ballot, is an activist and politician.
- Endorsements: Green has received the endorsement of actress Susan Sarandon and comedian Mike Epps.
- Accomplishments: In July 2020, Green created a small business repair program that helped businesses recover from looting.
- Controversies: According to The Triibe, Ja’Mal Green and Willie Wilson were involved in an alleged bribe where a Wilson advisor asked Green to drop his petition challenge.
Choose your Mayor
Based on what you’ve learned, pick the candidate that best aligns with your values and take this sheet with you to the ballot box on February 28!
Aldermanic and Police District Candidates
The Triibe has designed a helpful Election Center that can help you navigate the other races. Check it out here.