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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Chicago residents vote for mayor in a contest between two vastly different Democratic candidates

Chicago voters, who in February rejected the current mayor Lori Lightfoot, were presented with two candidates with radically divergent plans for the nation’s third-largest city on Tuesday.

A former public school administrator named Paul Vallas is running for mayor on a more conservative platform that includes increasing police presence, cracking down on crime, and expanding charter schools. Brandon Johnson, his opponent and a county commissioner and union organiser, ran as a proud progressive who would increase spending on social services and public schools in low-income areas and impose more taxes.

Chicago is struggling to recapture its pre-epidemic swagger in the midst of the runoff election. The city has been experiencing a decline in population, an increase in crime, and a decline in the vitality of its downtown in recent years. Ms. Lightfoot presided over two teacher labour stoppages and social upheaval during her one time at City Hall, leaving many residents disillusioned and afraid. She missed the runoff after collecting just 17 percent of the vote in February.

Voting ends at 7 p.m. Central. On previous election nights in Chicago, officials began publishing results by Tuesday evening. Nevertheless, with tens of thousands of uncounted mail-in votes, the outcome of a tight contest may not be known for days.

There had been around 364,500 votes cast citywide as of midday, according to authorities, for a turnout percentage of about 23%. Early in the day, clouds and light rain persisted, and strong thunderstorms were predicted for the afternoon.

Chicago’s election is the most recent contest in a major, liberal American metropolis where violence has been a top topic. Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams of New York City, a former police captain, won the 2021 Democratic primary by promising to clamp down on crime. Even though her more conservative opponent, wealthy real estate developer Rick Caruso, campaigned on a law-and-order platform, leftist congressman Karen Bass was elected mayor of Los Angeles last year.

Mr Vallas, 69, ran on a platform of increased public safety, promising stricter penalties for small violations and pledging to rapidly expand the Chicago Police Department, which is now operating under a consent decree in federal court and without a permanent superintendent. Mr. Vallas won the most votes in the February election thanks to his agenda, but he still fell short of the absolute majority he needed to avoid a runoff.

Mr. Vallas has been criticised for saying he is more Republican than Democrat and for receiving the backing of the local Fraternal Order of Police, whose leaders are known to employ loud vocabulary and support Republican candidates. The city is mostly Democratic. Yet, his promise to bring violence under control and his portrayal of Chicago as a city in crisis won over many people.

Retiree Gloria Garrett of the West Side’s Austin neighbourhood said she voted for Mr. Johnson because she was unhappy with Ms. Lightfoot’s campaign. It was important to her that the future mayor choose a competent police chief.

Attempting to sway voters who had previously backed either Ms. Lightfoot or Congressman Jess G. Garca, another mayoral contender, surveys show that both candidates have received endorsements from Black and Hispanic officials.

Both Mr. Vallas and Mr. Johnson represent significant shifts to the political right and left of Ms. Lightfoot’s ideas, respectively.

Ms. Lightfoot, a Democrat, won the runoff race four years ago and became Chicago’s first Black woman and first out homosexual mayor. Yet things got off to a rocky start under her presidency. Teachers went on strike shortly after she entered office. Even more dramatically, the coronavirus epidemic occurred after Trump had been in office for less than a year. The infection caused the Loop commercial sector to empty out, and murder rates to reach record highs.

Ms. Lightfoot, in campaigning this year, highlighted investments in once neglected areas of the South and West Sides and pointed out that murder rates, although still higher than before the epidemic, had begun to fall. But the electorate has already moved on.

Jonathan James
Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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