By: Kouri Marshall
On Tuesday, February 28, Chicagoans will be choosing a mayor. They have a few candidates to pick from, including our current mayor, Lori Lightfoot. And when it comes to the issues, there is so much at stake – especially for Black Chicagoans.
Before making this very important decision, it’s crucial that Chicagoans have all the facts about the individuals competing to be the next leader of our great city. Here is a breakdown of each candidate: Who they are, where they stand in the campaign and on the issues that matter most to our families and our futures.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot – Mayor Lightfoot may arguably have an advantage as an incumbent but she is headed into Tuesday’s election with a significant fundraising disadvantage, running behind her opponents Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson in campaign funds raised this year. Nevertheless, she is running on her record of reducing gun violence, expanding economic and business development and raising the minimum wage for Chicagoan workers. (Campaign website)
Paul Vallas – Paul Vallas has served as the Superintendent of Bridgeport Public Schools and as the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, as well as serving as a budget director for the City of Chicago. Vallas’ platform as a candidate for Mayor includes plans for improvement to Chicago’s public education system, crime prevention and public safety, and a balanced city budget. However, Vallas’ campaign has been hit with a very troubling report that Vallas’ Twitter account “liked” a number of tweets with racist language, supporting controversial police tactics like “stop and frisk” and personally insulting Mayor Lightfoot. Vallas has denied that he himself “liked” those tweets. (Campaign website)
Brandon Johnson – Brandon Johnson is a Cook County Commissioner for Chicago’s 1st District, with a background as a public school teacher and a union organizer. A former CPS teacher, Johnson has received the support of the Chicago Teachers’ Union for his campaign for Mayor. Johnson’s platform includes plans for public safety and police reform, creating more affordable housing, making Chicago a more affordable city to live in and advancing policies promoting disability and environmental justice, gender equity and LGBTQ+ rights, reproductive rights, and immigration reform – including making Chicago a sanctuary city that welcomes immigrants and refugees. (Campaign website)
Chuy Garcia – Jesus “Chuy” Garcia is the sitting Congressman for Illinois’ 4th Congressional District and the first Mexican-American elected to Congress from the Midwest. Garcia has received the endorsements of Representatives Jan Schakowsky and Mike Quigley in this race, as well as various labor unions, including International Brotherhood of Teamsters International (IBT) and Teamsters 705. Garcia’s platform includes plans for public safety (an issue on which he has been vocally critical of Mayor Lightfood’s record), affordable housing and economic development, improved public transit, and increased transparency in city government. (Campaign website)
Sophia King – Sophia King is a member of the Chicago City Council and the current Alderman for the 4th Ward. King’s campaign motto is “A Strong Chicago is a Safe Chicago” and she has focused heavily on pushing for more police coverage and for a public safety plan that includes fully funding violence prevention, creating a 4 day workweek for police officers, criminal justice reform, and implementing a system of drones serving as first responders. (Campaign website)
Ja’Mal Green – At the age of 27, Ja’Mal Green is the youngest contender in this race for Mayor. A progressively-affiliated Independent, Green has a background in neighborhood advocacy. He also served as a surrogate for Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders during his 2016 and 2020 bids for the Democratic presidential nomination. Green’s platform includes plans for “Banning the Boot” and ticket reform, climate justice, economic development, and modernizing Chicago’s civic government through civic technology – featuring a city-wide app – and a resource kiosk at city train stops. (Campaign website)
Kam Buckner – Kambian Elijah “Kam” Buckner is an Illinois State Representative from the 26th District. Buckner’s district is located exclusively in Chicago and his campaign for mayor is centered upon his motto: “Bringing People Together, Getting Things Done”. Buckner’s campaign has been endorsed by the editorial board of The Columbia Chronicle, who wrote that Buckner is “the only candidate in a crowded field with solid plans for policing, housing and public transportation.” (Campaign website)
Dr. Willie Wilson – Dr. Willie Wilson holds an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Mt. Carmel Theological Seminary and honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Chicago Baptist Institute International. A businessman, Wilson has owned five McDonald’s franchises and founded a medical supply company. This is Wilson’s fifth run for Mayor of Chicago. His platform includes a six-point plan for Chicago Transit Authority safety. (Campaign website)
Roderick Sawyer – Elected to the City Council in 2011, Roderick Sawyer is Chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus the current alderman for Chicago’s 6th Ward. The son of former Mayor Eugene Sawyer, Roderick is running on a platform focused on police reform and civilian oversight of the Chicago Police Department, as well as opposing what he has described as Mayor Lightfoot’s “mean-spirited” and “authoritative” approach to city governance and interaction with the alderpersons from each ward. (Campaign website)
There are nine candidates vying to be our next Mayor – some with very different approaches to key issues like affordable housing, educational opportunities, and an ever-increasing cost of living.
These issues are especially pressing for Black families, many of whom are historically and statistically at a disadvantage when it comes to considerations like generational wealth, the ability to purchase a home, and to afford to live or stay in this city amid the challenges of inflation, stagnant wages, and expenses like rent, groceries, education, transportation, medical care, and other day-to-day and long-term expenses.
I highly encourage you to visit the website of each of these candidates and study their plans for our city’s future. In such a crowded field, your vote could be the one that makes the difference!