Updated: Feb 6
After four years of city council yelling matches and broken campaign promises, it's finally time to choose a new mayor! We have a much better field running this year than we did in 2023, but there's a clear choice for mayor. Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson deserves your vote.
Brandon Johnson has the best progressive platform, is the most likely to continue as a reliable progressive once elected, has the competence to do a good job as mayor and effectively bring change, and has the backing of grassroots organizers throughout the city who can actually get him elected.
Johnson was a CPS teacher and union organizer and is in his second term as a Cook County Commissioner. While others are in Washington, Springfield, or downtown, Johnson is with the people, living in Austin on the West Side. He is far more in touch with the experiences of everyday Chicagoans than any major candidate. He has a good track record of actually getting things done on the Cook County Board, and he doesn't have the baggage of scandals and contentious relationships that many of his competitors carry.
He has been an impressive and inspiring communicator in candidate forums, expressing a bold and just vision for his administration. He effectively communicates the need for and path towards addressing the root causes of crime and supports the Treatment Not Trauma ordinance. He's seen and speaks about the structural racism present in Chicago's housing dynamics and supports the Bring Chicago Home ordinance. He supports progressive revenue solutions, free public transit, expanding Sustainable Community Schools, reworking school funding formulas for more equitable distribution, addressing environmental racism through cumulative impact assessments, reestablishing the Department of the Environment, and prioritizing pedestrian, bike, and public transit infrastructure.
He's backed by all the major progressive organizing groups and basically all of the alder candidates I'm really excited about. These people trust Brandon Johnson to reliably carry progressive ideals into city hall and to effectively bring change. There is progressive unity here like Chicago has rarely seen, even with the others in the race trying to claim the progressive label. He has a very serious chance at actually winning this election as well, with solid funding, great get-out-the-vote infrastructure, and steadily increasing poll numbers that have him in a tight four-way battle to make a runoff. He'd likely be the favorite in any runoff matchup and could very well be our next mayor.
I have only two concerns with him. First, will he have enough independence from CTU to be able to make good decisions when it comes to inevitable CPS-CTU conflict? The teachers' union is right on a lot of things politically, but their approach to a couple of recent crises and its impact on students and the city was questionable, even for a lot of usual supporters and for some teachers themselves. Second, if the Illinois Gaming Board rejects Bally's as a casino operator, which is possible, will he take a progressive anti-casino stance that cares for those in poverty and looks for other revenue rather than caving to union support for restarting the casino process which will lead to more addiction and to social costs that cancel out what revenue a casino might bring? Both of these are open questions, but on the whole, Johnson is the candidate to support!
See more at brandonforchicago.com.
Why not the other candidates?
Let's start with the easy one. Willie Wilson has been spouting ever more conservative talking points (less and less effectively) with each of his runs. He doesn't have the competence to be mayor, and would be pursuing a lot of harmful and chaotic policies if he did.
Paul Vallas is a perennial candidate for various offices at this point, but he has a very real chance this time around, as the more conservative end of the field is less divided than 2019. He's endorsed by the police union, running as the tough-on-crime candidate. He can speak with competence on a variety of issues, and I appreciate his outspoken opposition to the Chicago casino, but he is the candidate of conservatives, police, and big business in this race.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been a mess. While it is true that her administration really has been more progressive than previous administrations in some key ways, she has been a combative and ineffective mayor. She has alienated nearly everyone in government and related fields, driving massive turnover in a city council tired of trying to work with her. She is deeply unpopular and relies on overhyped marketing campaigns like Invest South/West's taking credit for way more than she's actually done and poorly conceived flashy projects like the casino and the NASCAR deal in order to try to demonstrate that she has been effective. While the last four years has surely not been an easy time to be mayor, Lightfoot has been a poor one. She fooled progressives (including me) into choosing her over Toni Preckwinkle in the 2019 runoff and she's broken promise after promise. She brought about a near-worthless watered-down police reform and duped a city into a casino on the threat of more property taxes (when the casino wouldn't prevent those). She's not cleaned up corruption, as transparency has been deeply lacking, and she's been a constant opponent of this city's progressive organizers.
Alder Roderick Sawyer has been a decent alder and has some progressive values, but is somewhat middle-of-the-road, inspires little confidence in his ability to be truly transformative, and has nearly zero cash or support.
Alder Sophia King could have been a promising progressive candidate, but she's running a campaign largely to the right of and more pro-police than her record as an alder. She could have had a lot of support, with strong ties to the Obamas and Toni Preckwinkle, but that didn't pan out. She's largely been a non-factor.
Ja'Mal Green talks a good progressive game but to me seems more show than substance. He has almost no money or support, is light on real policy details, and gets caught up in petty feuding with Willie Wilson (which I'm sure is fun, but doesn't get the job done). He shows up in all the right places and says a lot of the right things, but there are more effective leaders on the ballot.
State Representative Kam Buckner is an interesting option and was nearly the progressive candidate to watch. He was very early to enter the race, has a good progressive platform, and communicates it well. He demonstrates a strong handle on the issues of Chicago and the inner workings of policymaking. I'm glad he's in the General Assembly. However, Brandon Johnson has a better platform, more significant support, more rootedness in marginalized communities and familiarity with the everyday struggles of Chicago, and is all-around the better option. Buckner also has some past DUI's which don't help his cause.
U.S. Representative Jesús "Chuy" García is the final candidate. A little while back, I asked friends about which they'd back between García and Johnson, and the answer was mixed. Unsurprisingly, they are the two serious candidates getting significant support from progressives. Much of the argument for Chuy at the time was about his electability- they thought that he had the much better chance of making and winning a runoff. I would have agreed at the time (though that wouldn't have been a good enough reason to back Chuy over Brandon), but the dynamics of the race have changed. Johnson is not only the more reliable progressive, he is also equally, if not better, positioned to be able to win. Johnson is running on a much more progressive platform, as Chuy is really attempting to attract moderates with some of his rhetoric and lack of specifics. Johnson inspires much more confidence that we would still see him as a progressive in four years, while Chuy could very possibly be another Lori Lightfoot who would disappoint us. Chuy is more out-of-touch with Chicago. I'm glad he's in Congress, as he's a helpful ally there, but Brandon Johnson keeps demonstrating in forums that he can speak to the real needs and detailed policy workings of Chicago. Chuy's been effective at building an electoral machine that has elected Latinos throughout the city, and that machine will help him now, but the officials and organizations that back him are consistently less progressive than those backing Johnson. García lost the support of many organizations that backed him in 2015 and are now backing Johnson. He's been plagued by stories of deals with former Speaker Mike Madigan and Governor J. B. Pritzker that demonstrate how he's willing to make compromises to get allies to key positions. I'm glad that García and Pritzker are the apparent heads of the new machine rather than Madigan as that's an improvement, but there are grassroots organizations that can win elections without them and govern far more progressively than they would. Brandon Johnson, not Chuy García, is the candidate of that new progressive movement and will be the best mayor we've ever had.
I'm just an individual person doing research. I hope this is a helpful resource to people, especially those wanting to participate by voting but without the time to heavily research or engage. If you're someone deeply involved in your local elections and organizing, I doubt you need what I have to say- you know your community and election better than I do. If you think I've gotten something wrong (or right!), keeping the values on the About page in mind, I want to hear from you about it and take your input into consideration. Please comment or use the chat tool!