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Chicago mayoral race heats up between in debate

Chicago mayoral race heats up between in debate

Chicago Chicago’s mayoral hopefuls sparred on Thursday night in a televised debate ahead of the April 4 runoff.

The campaign is the latest big-city mayoral election to put voters’ views on crime and policing to the test.

Paul Vallas accused opponent Brandon Johnson of being a supporter of the “defund the police” campaign.

However, Johnson, a leftist, said that Vallas’ plans to increase police officer recruiting were sluggish and impractical.

The two mayoral candidates have said that they are Democrats and that they are running in a nonpartisan race.

They progressed to the runoff when incumbent Lori Lightfoot lost her reelection bid after coming third in the primary on February 28.

The candidates

Chicago is known as a Democratic stronghold, with 83% of people supporting President Joseph Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

While claiming to be members of the same party, Johnson and Vallas are on opposing sides of the party’s division over police issues.

Paul Vallas, a former public school superintendent who has the support of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, is the more conservative contender.

His campaign is centered on being pro-police and strong on crime.

Vallas promised to reduce the number of municipal police officers while increasing the number of cops stationed on Chicago Transit Authority buses and trains.

Brandon Johnson is a progressive Cook County commissioner who has gotten the Chicago Teachers Union’s support.

While he has occasionally supported the “defund the police” campaign, Johnson has stated that he would not slash police expenditure.

Instead, he intends to increase his investments in underprivileged regions.

The debate

On Thursday, ABC 7 aired the mayoral candidate debate, in which Johnson and Vallas sparred verbally.

Vallas brought up Johnson’s previous statements, in which he broadly supported shifting public funds away from enforcement and into community-based initiatives.

“I’m not going to defund the police, and you know that. You know that,” Johnson responded.

“I have passed multi-billion dollar budgets, over and over again.”

Brandon Johnson went on to say that he will hire 200 additional detectives to help solve more serious crimes.

He also stated that he will try to reduce gun violence by stricter implementation of “red flag” regulations.

Red flag laws enable judges to temporarily take guns from those deemed dangerous to themselves or others.

“The best way to engender confidence in public safety, you’ve got to catch people,” said Johnson.

Likewise, Paul Vallas promised to fill thousands of police positions rapidly.

After the positions are filled, he plans to post the cops in neighborhoods and on public transportation.

“There is no substitute for returning to community-based policing,” said Vallas.

“You can’t have confidence in the safety of public transportation when there are no police officers at the platforms and police officers at the stations.”

As violence in Chicago increased between 2020 and 2021, the mayoral contest in Chicago has centered on crime.

According to the Chicago Police Department’s 2022 year-end report, shootings and homicides have decreased, but other crimes increased, such as:

  • Burglaries
  • Car-jacking
  • Robberies
  • Theft

Read also: Lori Lightfoot out of race for Chicago mayor reelection

A turn in the race

At the previous debate, Paul Vallas remained above the fray while Brandon Johnson went on the offensive.

Everything changed on Thursday night when Vallas went right for the attack in the first few minutes of the debate, transforming the race into a contender with only three debates and three candidate forums remaining.

Vallas slammed Johnson’s proposal to raise hotel and jet fuel taxes, as well as a $4-per-head corporate tax and a higher sales tax on luxury properties.

Brandon Johnson said that Vallas is proposing higher expenditure on public safety without explaining how he would pay for it.

“You can’t run a multi-billion dollar budget off of bake sales,” he said.

Vallas went on to criticize Johnson’s role in school closures.

Brandon Johnson is a teacher who is supported by a union that publicly disagreed with Lori Lightfoot on the return of in-person classes.

According to Vallas, fifteen months of closures does not constitute an investment in people.

Johnson responded by claiming that Paul Vallas was making a Republican point by denouncing school closures due to the pandemic.

“That’s a part of your party,” he said.

Johnson tried to portray Vallas as too conservative for the blue city.


President Joe Biden, as well as Illinois Senators Dick Turbin and Tammy Duckworth and Governor JB Pritzker, chose not to participate in the runoff.

Some national voices, however, have backed Brandon Johnson, including:

  • Bernie Sanders
  • Elizabeth Warren
  • Jim Clyburn

Sanders said last week that Johnson has been a champion for Chicago’s working families.

Chicago County Board President Toni Preckwinkle also backed Johnson.

However, Paul Vallas has gained support from city alderman and former Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White.

Image source: NBC Chicago

Opinions expressed by US Business News contributors are their own.