Chicago mayor election tight ahead of Tuesday’s primary; incumbent Lightfoot third in poll

(The Center Square) – Chicago’s mayoral race likely will end up in an April runoff after Tuesday’s primary election.

Nine candidates put their names on the ballot to be Chicago’s next mayor, and just days before the primary, four candidates have separated from the pack.

If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in Tuesday’s election, the top two candidates will face off in an April 4 runoff election.

A poll by Fox 32 Chicago shows former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas in the lead with 33% support, Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson with 20%, incumbent mayor Lori Lightfoot with 18%, and U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, D-Chicago, with 13%.

Candidates have focused on protecting the city from violent crime and have looked for ways to shore up Chicago Police Department staffing and fill vacancies. The department currently has over 1,000 job openings for officers. Chicago Police statistics also show that violent crime has increased 63% over the past four years.

Vallas suggested at a forum that offering retired police officers incentives to return to the force could help fill the vacancies.

“First of all, you slow the exodus. When you lose 2,000 officers in two years, you have an exodus problem, and that won’t be accomplished until you have new leadership, community-based police strategy, and you get the officers on a new schedule,” Vallas said. “How do you fill the vacancies in the meantime? You fill the vacancies by inviting retired officers to come out of retirement to return, and you can incentivize them with healthcare.”

Lightfoot said in a WGN forum that she wants to continue the work she has already been doing to help law enforcement.

“We have made adjustments in hiring criteria, so we bring more people in. That has resulted in historic numbers of people that are applying,” Lightfoot said. “The yield we got last year was good. It was 956, almost 1,000, keeping pace with the number of officers that have retired.”

Garcia said poor leadership led officers to leave the force.

“Failed leadership has gotten us to this point where people do not have faith in the department,” Garcia said. “This is because of failed leadership.”

Garcia also suggested setting up neighborhood patrols to limit crime in communities.

Johnson, who has been climbing the polls over the past few weeks, said in an interview with CanTV that Chicago needs someone like him in the mayor’s office.

“You have to have someone who actually believes in the people of Chicago, someone who has the shared lived experience of Chicagoans, no matter what neighborhood you live in,” Johnson said. “I have that.”

Education has also been a main talking point for the candidates, as data show schools in Chicago have been underperforming.

Vallas said in order to shore up the early childhood education system in Chicago, stakeholders need to work together.

“If we want to expand the pool of early childhood providers and expand the workforce, work with the community-based organizations,” Vallas said.

While attending the forum at the Logan Center for the Arts, Vallas discussed previous programs he ran while in charge of CPS.

“When we did the Cradle to the Classroom program, our workers were all recruited from the community,” Vallas said. “The program literally almost had a perfect score, 2,500 teens, and no learning gap by third grade.”

Garcia said he plans to introduce pay raises for early childhood education workers if elected.

“They earn 30% less than teachers in K-12 programs, and that is very bad,” Garcia said. “Many of them, the providers, parents, can’t afford to cover childcare for their own children.”

Johnson said his plan includes addressing the high costs needed to pay for early childhood.

The primary election will be held on Tuesday.

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