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A Voter's Guide to the 2023 Chicago Municipal Runoff Elections

NBC Chicago 3/27/2023 James Neveau
File photo © Provided by NBC Chicago

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The next mayor of Chicago and the candidates who will fill more than a dozen City Council seats will be on the ballot this April as voters head back to the polls for the city’s runoff election.

Here’s everything you need to know as we head toward the April 4 runoff.

When is Chicago’s Election Day?

For the second time in a little over a month, Chicago voters will head to the polls for the April 4 runoff election, with the city’s mayoral race and more than a dozen City Council races on the ballot.

Who are the Candidates for Chicago Mayor?

The top-two vote-getters in the Feb. 28 election will square off on April 4, with former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas taking on Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson.

Who is Paul Vallas? What to Know About the Chicago Mayoral Candidate

Vallas is not a stranger to the Chicago electoral scene, running for mayor in 2019. He also launched an unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in 2002, losing the Democratic primary to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, and an unsuccessful bid to become the state’s lieutenant governor in 2014, losing as Pat Quinn’s running mate.

This time around he won nearly one-third of the votes in the mayoral election, easily finishing first in the nine-candidate field.

Who is Brandon Johnson? What to Know About the Chicago Mayoral Candidate

Johnson, a former Chicago Public Schools teacher who has earned the endorsement of the Chicago Teachers Union, finished second in that balloting, easing ahead of incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot in the final weeks of the campaign.

Johnson made his first foray into Chicago politics in the 2018 Cook County Board race, unseating incumbent Richard Boykin.

Where Do They Stand on Issues?

Vallas and Johnson have both made public safety a major component of their campaign platforms, with the candidates discussing the issue at length during a televised forum on NBC 5 in early March.

Public Safety

The candidates were asked questions about keeping Chicagoans safe, who they would potentially tab to replace Police Supt. David Brown, and how they would respond to challenges surrounding police officer morale and hiring issues, among others.

Policing and Mental Health Intervention

Brandon Johnson:

"There's already a model that exists. We're just simply saying we have to expand it...There's actually a model that exists in the city of Chicago where mental health crises, professionals show up. What we need is to actually codified, expanded, grow it and then make sure that local communities get a chance to participate and how it looks ultimately, here's the problem. We have allowed politics in the city of Chicago to be top down, not under my administration, we all have a collective responsibility to build a better, stronger, safer one."

Paul Vallas:

"First of all, look, we need to reopen the mental health centers and re-establish community based social services. The police cannot be the only responders, and I said that over and over again. But two years ago, we had 400,000 high priority 911 calls, not responded to in a timely manner, because it was not a police car available in uncertain nights like on the 11th district, which is the most violent district in the city, probably the most violent in the country. There are some nights when there are only half the patrol cars needed to cover beats. And one night there wasn't a single sergeant. That's a recipe for catastrophe. Also, there was something like I think over 100,000 domestic violence calls last year, only 10%, of which were responded to."

Community Violence Intervention

Brandon Johnson:

"We want to make sure that the people who are actually closest to the to the to the pain, get to actually help develop and solve the crisis in our community. Look, as Cook County Commissioner, I'm the only person who built an entire budget around Black lives for this very purpose. And President Preckwinkle uses it as a guiding line to implement the Equity Plan, which has put &5 million, now $100 million dollars into crisis prevention. That's real money. And so I'm the only person on this stage who has actually put forth a budget plan. And I understand why. Because when Paul put forth his budget plan four years ago, he came in ninth place. I understand why you would want to hide that. And so what does my budget plan do? We eliminate the structural deficit that he calls, we make up to $1 billion of investments to make sure we're sustaining and growing these programs. And we do it without paying raising property taxes. We already have a $2.5 billion property tax bill because of his failures."

Paul Vallas:

"I think it's estimated that there's a need of dedicating between $250 to $300 million to violence prevention programs. That's the model they've laid out. And you know, for the last three years, the tax increment financing funds have declared close to a billion dollars in surpluses, that's not COVID money. That's surpluses, they're generating annual surpluses of $40 million. So under a Vallas administration, we will, we will prioritize those programs. But I'm not going to dictate a single program, you now have these elected local police councils, we need to allow the community to identify the most effective programs. And we need to fund those programs not for young one year, but we need to fund them on a sustainable basis. And I've outlined the plan on how to do that and how to do that long term."

"So for example, I've talked about dedicating considerable cannabis money, legalizing video poker and dedicating that money, taking full advantage of the of the sports betting dedicating that money in earmarking a portion of annual tax increment financing programs to basically community based anti-violence intervention services. And, I actually proposed that four years ago. So that's something that's been consistent. Plus, if you are billing properly, Medicaid reimbursement, private insurance companies that such that you can actually fund the restoration and the reopening of mental health services, if you're simply getting the reimbursements that you're entitled to."

Police Officer Hiring and Retention

Paul Vallas:

"Well, let me point out that two things are happening. First of all, first of all, we're down to 1,100 police officers, and I've talked about filling those vacancies which are already budgeted for but not being filled. But it doesn't matter. We're not saving money because we're spending. We're spending $175 million in overtime and second, privatizing the security on the CTA. CTA riders believe that the CTA is unsafe, and they're down to half a million riders a day. And the farebox is only 18% of the operating budget, which means when the COVID money runs out, the CTA is going to go bankrupt. Nobody's even talking about that. So I'm talking about replacing those private officers with another 300 police officers and then pushing those officers down to the local beats. So this is about taking the existing money that's been spent on public safety and spending it right, filling those vacancies, pushing those officers down to the local level, because right now, only 53% of the officers that are on the force actually are under the command of the lowest local district commanders. So that's that's what I've been consistently talking about."

"We had 11,000, I think, 11,500 police officers when I became budget director, and we very quickly increased ranks to 13,500. You know how you increase the ranks? By not driving police officers out. We've lost 1,000 police officers in the last two years. In an average year, we would lose 335 police officers. The right leadership, the right strategy, the right approach will slow the excess you can then double the academy size. And you can also create conditions that will allow hundreds of officers to return you can quickly reduce ranks simply promoting 200 officers to the detective division. It's not going to solve the problems of crime in Chicago."

Brandon Johnson:

"Everything that Paul is talking about is already proven to fail. Look, I live on the west side of Chicago, it takes two years to become a police officer. Do we have two years to wait for public safety in Chicago? Not to mention, even when you go into our communities, think about how powerful this is. Many of the Black men and women who want to serve on the police force are being raised in some of the most violent communities. Do you understand how powerful that is? When you when you are raised in drama, and you see violence, and then you say listen, sign me up for it. But here's the problem though, the individuals who actually want to serve on the police force. They're being excluded. Because of their FICO score, or misdemeanors, the type of trauma that they've been raised in that have left families behind, and there are Black folks and Brown folks who still want to serve. Such remarkable human beings to want to serve a system that hasn't served us. And so all what we're simply saying is we need to solve crime. How do you engender confidence in policing, and the police that we have right now are not solving crime? Not to mention, you might have a co worker who was a part of a white supremacist organization."

"So, there are 200 officers who will start working today now that they're just coming out of the academy. 15 of them are Black people. We have already filled the "vacancies" that will be the result of me promoting and training 200 more detectives. Listen, we've already figured this out. The fact that we are spending so much time about policing and we're not talking about economic, economic opportunity to get jobs, that is the failure of all of this. We know what works. The safest cities in America have one thing in common you know what they do? They invest in people, and that's what I'm gonna do as mayor of the city of Chicago."

Chicago Bears

Vallas and Johnson were also asked about the state of the Chicago Bears during the forum, and whether their administrations would seek to keep the team in Chicago. Read their answers here.

Public Transit

Both candidates have extensive platform planks on public transit, and how they would not only keep CTA riders safe, but how they would improve service and reliability, among other topics. Read their responses here.

Abortion Rights

Finally, the candidates discussed abortion rights in their recent NBC 5 forum. Re-watch their answers here.

For full campaign platforms for Johnson and for Vallas, voters can visit their campaign websites.

Who Has Endorsed These Candidates?

Vallas started the election cycle by picking up notable endorsements from the Chicago Tribune, the Fraternal Order of Police’s Chicago chapter, and from Ald. Tom Tunney, and since then he has picked up several endorsements from former political rivals, with Roderick Sawyer and Willie Wilson both backing his campaign.

Johnson meanwhile has earned endorsements from the Chicago Teachers Union and several other local labor groups, while also picking up the support of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky and more.

You can find an up-to-date list of endorsements on the NBC 5 app and website.

How Did Each Ward Vote for Mayor in Round One?

As of March 13, here is the candidate that received the biggest share of the vote in each of the city’s wards:

Ward 1 – Brandon Johnson, 40.37%

Ward 2 – Paul Vallas, 60.56%

Ward 3 – Lori Lightfoot, 25.35%

Ward 4 – Lori Lightfoot, 27.46%

Ward 5 – Brandon Johnson & Lori Lightfoot, 29.57% (both candidates received 3,210 votes)

Ward 6 – Lori Lightfoot, 37.39%

Ward 7 – Lori Lightfoot, 39.37%

Ward 8 – Lori Lightfoot, 41.55%

Ward 9 – Lori Lightfoot, 39.94%

Ward 10 – Paul Vallas, 35.79%

Ward 11 – Paul Vallas, 57.02%

Ward 12 – Jesus “Chuy” García, 45.21%

Ward 13 – Paul Vallas, 54.75%

Ward 14 – Jesus “Chuy” García, 54.95%

Ward 15 – Jesus “Chuy” García, 33.51%

Ward 16 – Lori Lightfoot, 37.5%

Ward 17 – Lori Lightfoot, 40.18%

Ward 18 – Lori Lightfoot, 30.63%

Ward 19 – Paul Vallas, 60.9%

Ward 20 – Lori Lightfoot, 29.88%

Ward 21 – Lori Lightfoot, 40.22%

Ward 22 – Jesus “Chuy” García, 57.36%

Ward 23 – Paul Vallas, 46.56%

Ward 24 – Lori Lightfoot, 36.2%

Ward 25 – Jesus “Chuy” García, 39.13%

Ward 26 – Brandon Johnson, 35.69%

Ward 27 – Paul Vallas, 25.95%

Ward 28 – Lori Lightfoot, 35.84%

Ward 29 – Lori Lightfoot, 32.76%

Ward 30 – Paul Vallas, 33.39%

Ward 31 – Jesus “Chuy” García, 34.29%

Ward 32 – Paul Vallas, 46.17%

Ward 33 – Brandon Johnson, 37.53%

Ward 34 – Paul Vallas, 45.88%

Ward 35 – Brandon Johnson – 44.88%

Ward 36 – Paul Vallas, 30.99%

Ward 37 – Lori Lightfoot, 41.64%

Ward 38 – Paul Vallas, 56.97%

Ward 39 – Paul Vallas, 48.11%

Ward 40 – Brandon Johnson, 34.3%

Ward 41 – Paul Vallas, 71.16%

Ward 42 – Paul Vallas, 61.75%

Ward 43 – Paul Vallas, 55.2%

Ward 44 – Paul Vallas, 40.6%

Ward 45 – Paul Vallas, 52.25%

Ward 46 – Brandon Johnson, 34.56%

Ward 47 – Brandon Johnson, 38.83%

Ward 48 – Brandon Johnson, 34.95%

Ward 49 – Brandon Johnson, 40.19%

Ward 50 – Paul Vallas, 49.74%

Which Offices Are On the Ballot?

While most of the focus will be on the mayoral election, there are 14 City Council races that will also be going to runoffs this April.

Most of those runoffs will take place in wards where the incumbent either retired or ran for higher-office, but several incumbents will also face runoff challenges, including two Lightfoot appointees, as 11th ward Ald. Nicole Lee will face Anthony Ciaravino and 24th Ward Ald. Monique Scott will face Creative Scott.

Ald. Chris Taliaferro will face a runoff after receiving under 50% of the vote in his 29th ward, while 36th ward Ald. Gilbert Villegas also came up short of that 50% threshold.

Ald. Jim Gardiner and Ald. Timmy Knudsen will face runoffs in the 45th and 43rd wards, respectively.

A full list of the runoff races can be found here.

What Are the Races to Watch?

While there are more than a dozen races on the April 4 ballot, NBC 5 has compiled a list of seven of the more intriguing races, which could be closely-contested in the head-to-head battles.

Where to Vote Early

Chicago residents seeking to vote early can begin to do so on March 20 at the city’s Supersite, located at 191 North Clark. Early voting will also begin on that date at sites in each of the city’s 50 wards.

A full list of those sites can be found on the Chicago Board of Elections’ website.

How to Find Your Polling Place

The Board of Elections provides a tool to help voters find their polling place. Voters will be asked to fill out their address and provide their last name.

What Time Are Polls Open?

As with all elections in Illinois, polls will open at 6 a.m. on April 4, and will close at 7 p.m.

What Should You Bring?

While a government-issued photo ID is not required to vote under Illinois law, it can be helpful bring one, should any questions about registration, address, signature or other topics arise during the voting process.

Can You Register to Vote on Election Day?

If you are not registered, you can do so at your polling place on Election Day. In that situation, a voter will need to bring two forms of identification, at least one of which has to have a current address. Voters will also be asked to vote at the same time that they register.

How to Get Live Results

Live Election Day coverage will air on NBC 5’s 24/7 Streaming Channel throughout the evening, and coverage will kick off on NBC 5 at 10 p.m.

You can also track live up-to-the-minute results live in the NBC Chicago app. Be sure to sign up for news alert notifications to get the latest information.

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