Big money has found its man, but so have we - A new front-runner and a rising challenge
After a couple of months of looking like a favorite, Chuy García is fading fast. He's been unimpressive in forums, lackluster in ideas, and lacking courage in taking strong stands. Really, it's hard to tell if he even believes in his own campaign.
Lori Lightfoot continues to spin her wheels trying to gain support. All four of her appointed alders have refused to explicitly endorse her, and now multiple of her closest council allies have endorsed others with Tunney endorsing Vallas and Dowell endorsing Johnson in the last week, while Villegas has been backing García for a while.
The two candidates gaining support are Vallas and Johnson. As I've noted before, they had the most room to grow as voters had an opportunity to get to know them, and they each have the money and campaign structure to make the most of that support.
In the past 2-3 weeks, there's been a huge influx of cash to Paul Vallas. It seems like Chicago's wealthy elite all had a tea party on someone's yacht or something and decided Vallas had shown enough strength to be worth investing in (and not a waste of money like his previous campaigns). So a bunch of them all have started donating $10,000+ (small change for them but big money for a municipal race). Vallas has raised four times what the other major candidates have raised so far in 2023. Folks are still looking at all those donors and analyzing who exactly those people are, but attacks are already coming from the other candidates continuing to tie Vallas to Republicans and to police like Richard Hagen who was involved in the cover-up of Laquan McDonald's death circumstances and FOP president John Catanzara who is far-right-wing and generally angers everyone. Now Brian Hopkins (alder representing a lot of those rich people) has also just endorsed Vallas, and I wouldn't be surprised to start seeing others like Reilly (downtown), and Beale, Sposato, and Gardiner (big pro-cop energy) start to back him too. For a long time, he only had the council's lone Republican, Anthony Napolitano, backing him, but the floodgates have opened. The Chicago Tribune also endorsed Vallas this week.
Undecided progressives and semi-confident Chuy voters are now finding their way to Brandon Johnson, and I believe he's moved into a clear second place in this race. Even a Lightfoot-aligned alder like Pat Dowell sees where things are headed and how impressive a candidate Brandon Johnson is!
A variety of polls have been released in the past couple of weeks, and they vary widely, as municipal polling always does. One released yesterday seems to most accurately reflect the race as it currently stands in my opinion. From IZQ Strategies:
Paul Vallas has become the clear frontrunner at 25%, Brandon Johnson has moved into 2nd with 15%, Lightfoot and García are stagnant or declining at 12%, and Willie Wilson remains stuck at his ceiling of 11%, while other candidates remain negligible.
I think as undecided voters continue to find their candidates and as get-out-the-vote capacity and cash-on-hand have their effects, the Feb. 28th vote will look more like:
The good news is that we have a runoff system in which the top two candidates move to a second election in April if no one receives 50% of the vote. It's looking very likely Vallas will make that runoff, but the question is- will we have a great option like Johnson in the runoff or will we have the doomsday Vallas-Lightfoot runoff? Get out and vote!
Here's where I think probability to be mayor stands now:
Johnson-Vallas will be a very close and very polarized runoff.
Also, I've had various thoughts of who may end up mayor over the past couple of years, but the race has ironically circled back to the same top 3 candidates I first identified in November 2020 (Facebook page name was different at the time before Aldermania was launched). Hopefully the final result is different than I expected at the time. Get out and vote for Brandon Johnson!