• Fri. Jun 2nd, 2023


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Race dominates final days of the mayoral election in deeply segregated Chicago

Johnson needs that coalition if he’s to compete with Vallas, who has outraised him and blanketed the airwaves with anti-Johnson ads, hitting him over his past statements about police funding and casting him as a tax-and-spend liberal. 

Vallas and Johnson emerged as the top two vote-getters, respectively, in February’s nine-person mayoral primary. Incumbent Lori Lightfoot lost her bid for re-election, becoming the first Chicago mayor to do so in 40 years.

In the closing days of the April 4 runoff contest, it’s the issue of race that’s defining the election. It’s playing out in one of the most segregated cities in the country, where a Black progressive is competing against a white moderate and where the course of the city’s next four years, including the safety of its residents, may very well turn on the coveted Black vote — a vote neither Johnson nor Vallas won in the first round.  

And the fact that the election is on the 55th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. imbues the day with extra meaning, as many Chicagoans have pointed out.

Johnson has leaned into race at public events; at one point in a mayoral forum before a mostly Black crowd, he told Vallas, “When Black men tell you the truth, believe us.” It was in response to Vallas’ charge that Johnson wants a city income tax. (United Working Families, a left-leaning group supporting Johnson, has backed the proposal, but Johnson has said he doesn’t.) 

Johnson, 46, a Cook County commissioner supported by the powerful Chicago Teachers Union, has won the endorsement of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Chicago civil rights icon, and progressive Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Johnson’s faith outreach coordinator said the campaign has already reserved 80 buses for a massive “souls to the polls” early voting effort that typically targets people of color.

And Johnson’s lining up the endorsements of prominent pastors in the Black community, not to mention benefiting from a get-out-the-vote rally by the Rev. Al Sharpton, the MSNBC host, on Sunday. That’s all on top of the deep organizational strength that comes from the teachers union, which has spent millions of dollars on Johnson’s candidacy.