On Tuesday, Feb. 28, Chicago had its mayoral election. While most cities only have one election, there will be another election in Chicago on April 4 for the mayoral runoff election. The mayoral election will have challengers Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson. This is due to the fact that no single candidate won more than 50% of the popular vote. Therefore, there is a need for another election.
This contrasts with a majority of other American cities that have municipal elections. The change for this happened in 1999 to eliminate partisan efforts by the Illinois General Assembly that was Republican and former Democrat Mayor Richard Daley. This agreement ultimately facilitated Mayor Daley’s 1999, 2003, and 2007 wins and built the ‘political machine’ that often defined Chicago’s legal scene. This legislation profited from the notion of creating a more equal process of electing officials, but it ultimately worried residents.
Residents were especially concerned about how this would impact black candidates that often ran on social justice issues. The magnitude of this law was perceived to limit the candidates when advocating. Ultimately, this law forcing a runoff was meant to deter residents by having it in February, as opposed to November like in other cities and a recurrent election to depreciate turnout.
Nevertheless, the aspiration and achieved goal would be that all candidates are bipartisan. Despite this, mayoral candidates like Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson are both running on a Democratic-adjacent campaign. Additionally, current mayor Lori Lightfoot also ran as a Democrat. This law did shape Chicago’s political scene without any opposition until 2015 when former Mayor and current Ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, was challenged by Chuy Garcia. Another runoff would occur in 2019 with current Mayor Lori Lightfoot winning following beating political opponent, Toni Preckwinkle. Lori Lightfoot’s 2019 was monumental. She was the first openly gay mayor and the first black female mayor of Chicago. In leading an urban city and pledging to invest in underserved communities, she was able to garner the vote. Nevertheless, she failed to enter the mayoral runoff. This is no surprise considering that her approval rating was only 48% in 2021. This is reflected in her only winning 16.48% of the popular vote on Tuesday. To contrast, former Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Paul Vallas won 34.87% and former Cook County Commission Brandon Johnson won 20.21%.
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