Incumbent Lightfoot is out; Vallas, Johnson head to runoff on April 4

By Leah Love, News Editor


Mayoral candidates Paul Vallas, former Chicago Public Schools CEO, and Brandon Johnson, Cook County commissioner, will be facing each other in a runoff election scheduled for April 4. 

The two frontrunners have made history as current Mayor Lori Lightfoot – who is the first Black woman and openly gay mayor – conceded the race shortly before 9 p.m. on Tuesday, making her the first one-term Chicago mayor in 40 years. 

As of 10:30 p.m., 98% of the votes were counted, with Vallas capturing 33.95% of the vote and Johnson following with 20.32%, according to the Chicago Board of Elections.

Just under a third of all registered voters turned out for this election.

Early voting has more than doubled since 2019, with over 200,000 ballots cast as of Feb. 27, according to the Chicago Board of Elections.

Turnout overall was low among young people, who accounted for 3.14% of the total votes. Over 50% of the ballots came from voters age 55 or older.

During her time in office, Lightfoot became increasingly unpopular with recent polling showing 54% of voters having an unfavorable opinion of her. 

“She has unfortunately been able to unite the left and the right into feeling like we need new leadership,” said Jesus “Chuy” García supporter Laurie Glenn. 

García, who would have become Chicago’s first Latino mayor, came in 4th place with 13% of the vote. “Tonight, I still believe that Chicago still has a better future than ever before. While we came up short, we know what our city can be when we build a coalition,” García said.   

Willie Wilson has yet to concede from the race. 

Vallas’ campaign has focused on crime and public safety, garnering the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of the Police. The Chicago Garda of Pipes and Drums performed at his election night party, which was packed with supporters. 

Garda member Tom Herion said Vallas is “trying to bring safety and security back to the city with the hiring of police personnel,” and would be “a lead by example type mayor.”

“I’ve always had the good sense to listen to the community, to empower the community and draw my leadership from the community,” Vallas said in his celebratory speech. 

Former Ald. Tom Tunney (44th Ward) touted Vallas’ record on reproductive care and LGBTQ+ rights, and said Vallas “has a plan to make sure each and every neighborhood [is] safe for families, businesses and visitors alike.”

Johnson, an organizer for the Chicago Teachers Union since 2011, secured endorsements from American Federation of Teachers, SEIU Local 73 and United Working Families.

Among Johnson’s supporters is U.S. Rep. Delia Ramirez, who spoke at Johnson’s election watch party Tuesday night.

“To those people that believe someone from the West Side can’t be mayor: we are here and we are going to the runoff,” Ramirez said. “We are sending someone that understands our community and recognizes that the city is in need of healing.”

According to a survey by the Chicago Sun-Times, 44% of respondents said crime and public safety are the most important issues to them this election cycle, whereas 13% said criminal justice reform and 12% were primarily concerned about jobs and the economy. In a supplementary survey, the Sun-Times found that 63% of respondents do not  feel safe in the city. 

During her 2019 mayoral run, Lightfoot said she would “shake up” Chicago as a political outsider. 

Former Ald. Sophia King (4th Ward) conceded the mayoral race early Tuesday evening, while Lamont Robinson, who is running for King’s spot, raked in 46% of the 4th Ward’s vote. 

Robin Sluzas, Ruth Johnson, Zoë Takaki, Jared Callaway and Kaelah Serrano contributed to this report.