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It’s been a race for the record books. When current Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced he would not seek re-election in September 2018, he created a wide-open field for the race for the top seat in the nation’s 3rd largest city. We’ve heard from 21 candidates, which turned into 14 once petitions were completed—not to mention all of the speculations of who would run and who wouldn’t run.

 

Now, less than one week away from the big race, candidates are pulling out all of the stops, making last-minute campaign visits, battling it out at forums, and blowing up our cell phones with messages and texts.

 

As you make your way to the polls on or before February 26, the Chicago Defender has spoken with the candidates and tried to find out what exactly they will do to help the African American community. Here’s some of their answers compiled from our interviews as well as their campaign information.

 

As always, stay tuned to the Defender and Chicagodefender.com for the latest information on the election.

Toni Preckwinkle

Touted as the front runner in a full race, according to most polls, she will still probably not receive 51 percent of the vote, which means there will be a run-off between the two top candidates. Here’s what Preckwinkle has to say to the Black community:

 

When asked about what young Black people can get excited about from her campaign, Preckwinkle told the Defender:

“Things I talk about all the time seem important to people across the age spectrum: good neighborhood public schools, rebuilding communities that have been struggling, repairing police and community relations. Those are issues that should appeal to all age groups.”

 

As for experience, Preckwinkle, the current Cook County Board President, was an alderman for the 4th ward for 14 years. She began her career as a school teacher.

 

Notable endorsements: Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU

Bill Daley

The brother and son of former mayors of Chicago, the businessman is also a former chief of staff for President Barack Obama and served in President Bill Clinton’s administration. Running closely next to Preckwinkle in most polls, Daley says he brings a “deep and personal attachment to the city’s neighborhoods and equally deep relationships in the business and civic community.”

 

Daley’s website says he will “work to reduce crime, strengthen neighborhoods, and keep Chicago affordable while addressing the city’s long-term finances and enhancing Chicago’s role as a global city and an economic engine for Illinois and the Midwest.”

 

Notable endorsements: U.S. Congressman Bobby Rush

Susana Mendoza

Another contender for the front-runner in the election is Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza. She says she is the contestant who not only understands policy and fiscal issues but the one who loves people too.

 

Mendoza has focused on the three main areas of concern in the city and says she has worked on them all in her past (crime, education and taxes).

 

For education, she proposes that “we need to rework the formula. We need new initiatives and to give kids more resources. I think we should keep them in school longer than 3:15 (no parent gets off at 3:15). How do you get your kids? No one talks about this. You have two choices: forgo a normal job or allow your kid to walk through unsafe environments…and have them watch themselves and maybe make bad choices. If we extend the school day, provide supervision, mentoring after school…we can partner with groups to bring resources into schools for students as well as parents. We can take care of food insecurity issues (with dinner or snacks), parents can access life skill coaching/job coaching…and we can close the achievement gaps.

 

Mendoza says she will be the only mayor in history to have a child enrolled in CPS.

 

Notable endorsements: United Food and Commercial Workers

 

Lori Lightford

Lori Lightfoot

Former head of Civilian Office of Police Accountability, Lightfoot is also trending as one of the front-runners in the race.

 

The Defender caught up with Lightfoot early in the race. She pointed to affordable housing as an issue she’d work on: “It’s really an issue that animates people all over the city, particularly low to middle-income neighborhoods that are on the rise,” says Lightfoot. “I think we have to get serious about providing sufficient affordable housing units in neighborhoods, instead of relegating them to areas that are inconvenient and less desirable across the city.”

 

She also said she hoped people would look at her background. “I hope people look at my background and will recognize that when I talk about families that are struggling, I’m talking from the basis of personal experience,” says Lightfoot. “I’m the fourth of four kids. I’ve been in Chicago for almost 32 years, but I grew up in Ohio during the 60s and 70s in a small steel-town that was very segregated.”

Notable endorsements: Chicago Sun-Times

 

Gery Chico

Rounding out the list of five candidates slated as “front runners” by most polls is Gery Chico, former chief of staff to Mayor Richard Daley, former CPS Board President and former Chair of the Illinois State Board of Education.

 

Chico spoke with the Defender and shared his comprehensive plan for the city.

“I want people to stay in the City,” he said. “I know tax payers are not an ATM for politicians…I am fighting for working class citizens in this city to maintain their standard of living…

 

Chico has worked in education and helped to create excellent schools that he says need to be in all corners of the city. He said “parents shouldn’t have to strain and struggle about whether they can stay in our city because they are worried about finding a good school.” He wants to expand vocational/technical schools and partner with businesses to provide jobs in all areas of the city.

 

Notable endorsements: Alderman Ed Burke

 

 

Other candidates

Of course polls are not always accurate and don’t tell the entire story—and the polls in this election all show a large number of undecided voters, many of the other candidates still have a chance to take the top office. Candidates such as: Willie Wilson, Amara Enyia, LaShawn Ford, Neal Sales-Griffin, Jerry Joyce, Garry McCarthy, Robert “Bob” Fioretti, John Kozlar, Paul Vallas are vying for a chance to run the city.  See the next story for some of these candidates who participated in a forum recently.

 

Eight Candidates Show Up at Washington Park Chamber of Commerce Mayoral Forum

By Charles Preston

Defender Contributing Writer

On Saturday, February 9th, the Washington Park Chamber of Commerce hosted a mayoral forum at Coppin AME, located on 5633 S Michigan Ave.  The forum, moderated by famed Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell, featured 8 of the 14 Chicago mayoral candidates: Amara Enyia, Bob Fioretti, La Shawn Ford, John Kozlar, Lori Lightfoot, Paul Vallas, and Willie Wilson.

 

Candidates had two minutes to respond to three questions: one dealing with economic development, another addressing lighting as a public safety issue, a question on housing challenges and rent control, and a final question on equitable access to education for Black and Latino youth. Following the initial moderated questions, audience members posed their own questions to each candidate.

 

The looming election day is drawing near and candidates were quite contentious with each other in comparison to past mayoral forums. After the first two questions, Bob Fioretti directly dismissed Amara Enyia’s solutions by asking the audience if they understood any of what Enyia said. Enyia demanded that Fioretti “Fall back!”  John Kozlar and Lori Lightfoot had a brief quarrel after Kozlar took a light shot at Lightfoot’s political experience.  This occurred after Lightfoot reiterated the moderator’s questions each time it was her chance to speak, a tactic to show how Kozlar failed to directly answer the previous question.

 

There was even a brief protest from a community member. As Paul Vallas was discussing jobs, a woman in a purple shirt started shouting about CPS’s “Do-Not-Hire,” asserting that the list has impacted Black employment. She was eventually escorted out of the church without any candidate addressing her.

 

“There was a lady behind us shouting about the ‘no hire-lists’ or something like that. They never addressed that,” said Alma Heath, a daycare worker who is part of the Washington Park Community. Heath said she’s overjoyed at attending a forum in her neighborhood but hoped for more from the candidates. “They need to address that about the jobs and why African-American men and women are on those lists. My thing is, don’t just say it; do it! Come and talk to us. Come into our communities.”

 

About 200 people attended the forum. A third of the attendees were from candidates’ campaigns.  Once the forum ended, many guests stayed to schmooze with candidates and ask more pressing questions. Donna H. Smith, the event’s organizer, was surprised about how well the forum was received.

 

“It was more than I expected; it was awesome,” says Smith. “I think the candidates answered the questions really well and the questions reflected the community.”

 

With a little more than half of the candidates present, Smith did voice her displeasure about two candidates who never answered to the South Side organization’s invitation. “We reached out to everyone. We’re so disappointed that two of the candidates didn’t respond, Bill Daley and Neal Sales-Griffin.”

 

As for candidates who made an impression, Heath stated there were three on her radar after walking into the church undecided.

 

“I like Amara and Willie Wilson. Lori Lightfoot is probably third.”

 

The Washington Park Chamber of Commerce’s next event is a community education forum centered on community development on March 25th. Pastor Torrey L. Barret is the featured speaker.

 

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