Activist Ja’Mal Green announced Monday he was dropping out of the Chicago mayoral race because challenges to get on the ballot became too cumbersome.
Candidates running to replace outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel need to gather a certain number of voters’ signatures to get their names on the Feb. 26 city ballot. The validity of Green’s signatures were challenged by businessman Willie Wilson, who’s also running for mayor.
“It’s not even about the 12,500 signatures,” Green told reporters at a press conference Monday morning. “It’s about you having manpower to have people down here at the Board of Elections for 11 hours a day. It’s about having tens of thousands of dollars to pay lawyers to continue to go to court and continue fighting for you. This process is not fair for the regular person,” Green said at the Chicago Board of Elections headquarters downtown.
Illinois’ rigid election laws set a high bar for candidates to get on the ballot. The system benefits deep-pocketed, establishment candidates who have the money and resources to gather thousands of ballot petition signatures and challenge their opponents’ paperwork. But that makes it difficult for candidates who can’t afford to keep fighting legal challenges that often drag on for weeks.
Green, 23, campaigned as a voice for youth and touted his activism toward bringing police accountability in the city. He said he has not decided who he will endorse for mayor.
“I will not stop trying to make this city safe for all, making sure every community has economic development, making sure schools in Englewood are just as good as schools in Ravenswood. That police officers are held accountable when they do wrong and even rewarded when they do right,” Green said.
Green made headlines in 2016 after he was arrested at a protest outside the Taste of Chicago following an altercation with police.
Green’s withdrawal from the race still leaves a crowded field, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.
Twelve candidates in February’s non-partisan election are already guaranteed a spot on the ballot: Democratic Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, former Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot, activist Amara Enyia, former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, former Chicago Ald. Bob Fioretti, attorney John Kozlar, Democratic Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, attorney Jerry Joyce, former CPS Board President Gery Chico, and Wilson.
Meanwhile, five other candidates are still fighting challenges to their ballot paperwork: Democratic Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, Chicago Democratic state Rep. La Shawn Ford, tech entrepreneur Neal Sales-Griffin, Catherine Brown D’Tycoon, and Chicago Police Officer Roger Washington.