A crowded cast of candidates are looking to unseat first-term Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot Feb. 28. Here’s a brief look at who’s filed to run, and snapshots of what they say they’d do if they take office. This candidate list may change, however. One of their political opponents could challenge the validity of their petitions and get them kicked off the ballot. Or, they still have time to change their mind and withdraw from the race altogether. The Board of Elections aims to certify the ballot near the end of December.
If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote in February, the top two vote-getters will head to a run-off election in April. The winner will be sworn in in May 2023.
WBEZ will update this list as candidates enter the race or leave it. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order.
Democratic state Rep. Kam Buckner has described himself as a “uniter” and said he aims to bolster community policing efforts, direct funding to schools based on need and stabilize the city’s finances.
Buckner was appointed to the Illinois House in 2019, where he worked on legislation to eliminate the use of cash bail and proposed a bill to create an elected Chicago Board of Education. He also serves as House Chair of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus.
Prior to joining the state legislature, Buckner led the now-dissolved nonprofit, World Sport Chicago, which aimed to connect underserved youth with sports. An analysis by WBEZ previously found that under Buckner’s tenure the nonprofit’s spending on programming decreased while Buckner’s salary nearly tripled. Buckner also worked on community outreach for the Chicago Cubs and played football for the University of Illinois.
Jesús “Chuy” García
Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García said he wants to decrease violence while investing in mental health resources and build a green infrastructure for the city that combats environmental racism.
An advocate for immigrant rights, García pushed for Cook County to pass an ordinance ending its cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers and founded Enlace Chicago, a nonprofit that tackles systemic equities in Little Village.
García currently represents Illinois’ 4th Congressional District, and has touted his long record in elected office. He’s also served in the Illinois state Senate, as an alderman under former Mayor Harold Washington during the “council wars” era and as a Cook County commissioner.
He ran for mayor in 2015 with the backing of progressive union support, but ultimately lost to Rahm Emanuel in the runoff election.
Activist Ja’Mal Green says as mayor he would bolster home ownership, ban the booting of vehicles and support universal pre-k.
His protests and calls for Chase Bank to issue reparations for its racially disparate lending record contributed to the lender announcing it would increase mortgage lending to Black and Latino Chicagoans by $600 million. Through the initiative My Turn To Own, Green aims to help people achieve home ownership.
In 2016, Green made headlines when he was arrested outside the Taste of Chicago festival while protesting police shootings, and he has been outspoken about the Chicago Police Department.
Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson said he aims to tackle violence in the city by addressing its “root causes,” such as creating an “Office of Gun Violence Prevention” and passing a tax on multi-million dollar real estate sales.
During his time in county government, Johnson sponsored a measure to limit landlords from asking about a potential tenant’s criminal history and supported a non-binding resolution to shift funds from law enforcement to social services. In the most recent Cook County budget, he voted against funding social workers through dollars that would be controlled by the sheriff’s office.
An organizer for the Chicago Teachers Union and former teacher, Johnson is backed by the CTU and has nabbed endorsements from other teacher and labor unions.
If elected, Ald. Sophia King has said she will move to fire Chicago Police Supt. David Brown, fill vacancies in the police department’s ranks and create a “Chicago Reserve” of 1,000 retired police officers.
She’s represented the South Side’s 4th Ward since 2016 and has previously been endorsed in her re-election bid for alderwoman by former President Barack Obama. She serves as the chair of the City Council’s progressive caucus, where she worked to increase the city’s minimum wage to $15, opposed the termination of Mercy Hospital’s redevelopment agreement as it faced closure and pushed to rename Lake Shore Drive.
She also founded the nonprofit Harriet’s Daughters, which aims to bolster job opportunities in the African American community, and co-founded the Ariel Community Academy school in the Kenwood neighborhood.
Incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot says she still has more to do to build on accomplishments from her first term, such as investments on the South and West sides.
Less than a year into office, Lightfoot was tasked with steering Chicago through the pandemic, in which “every decision was hard.” While Lightfoot has followed through on many of her campaign promises, she’s reneged on others, such as increasing the real estate transfer tax on properties valued over $1 million to fund homeless prevention or supporting an elected school board.
Prior to serving as mayor, Lightfoot was a former federal prosecutor, attorney and president of the Chicago Police Board and chair of the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force.
Lightfoot made history as the first Black woman and openly gay mayor when elected in 2019.
As mayor, Ald. Roderick Sawyer said he plans to fire Chicago Police Supt. David Brown and tackle police vacancies by offering hiring incentives.
Sawyer hopes to follow in the footsteps of his father, Mayor Eugene Sawyer. Roderick Sawyer was elected to City Council in 2011 to represent the 6th Ward, and he chairs the Committee on Health and Human Relations.
He was a founding member of the council’s progressive reform caucus, where he has been a vocal advocate for police reform and helped pass an ordinance to create a subcommittee to explore reparations.
Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas said his top priorities as mayor will be reducing crime, expanding school choice options and reining in the city budget.
The majority of Vallas’ career has been in education, where he’s been an outspoken advocate for creating private and charter school options and described as “a turnaround specialist.” He served as the top CPS official for six years from 1995 to 2001 under former Mayor Richard M. Daley, and went on to oversee schools in Philadelphia, New Orleans and Bridgeport, Connecticut. Vallas also served as a former budget director of the city, and most recently worked as a consultant to the Fraternal Order of Police amid contract negotiations.
Vallas ran for mayor in 2019, but failed to make it to the runoff election, placing ninth with a little over 5% of the vote. He also unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic nomination for Illinois governor in 2022 and lieutenant governor in 2014.
Wealthy businessman Willie Wilson has vowed to put the economy on a path to recovery, get rid of red-light cameras and “take the handcuffs off the policemen.”
Wilson, a philanthropist, has doled out millions of dollars in gas giveaways and has posted bail for more than a hundred people charged with misdemeanors.
Over the years, he’s run as a Democrat and under the banner of his own political party, dubbed “The Willie Wilson Party.” He previously said he voted for former President Donald Trump in 2016, but has vowed to work “with anybody” to accomplish change.
It’s Wilson’s third run for mayor. He failed to make it to the runoff election each time, finishing fourth in 2019 and third in 2015 with nearly 11% of the vote in both races. He also launched a failed bid for president in 2016 and lost a third party campaign for Illinois’ U.S. Senate seat in 2020.
No longer running:
Chicago police officer Frederick Collins, who said he’s had 30 years of experience as an officer, said he planned to tackle crime by enforcing curfew laws and implementing stop and frisk laws coupled with the use of body cameras.
Collins also said he would have nixed a policy that prevents officers from chasing people because they’ve run away or committed minor offenses and have the city take over maintenance of sidewalks.
Collins’ candidacy was challenged and he was expected to be knocked off the ballot in early January for failing to file enough valid signatures.
A Facebook page promoting Johnny Logalbo for mayor stated he would “bring the focus more on God, the people and Love.” A campaign website linked to his Facebook page did not work at the time of filing.
Logalbo said he is a freelance counselor, has years of experience helping others and wanted to bring empathy into the mayor’s office. He told WBEZ this was his first time running for elected office.
His candidacy was challenged and he was removed from the ballot Dec. 22 for failure to file required paperwork or secure enough petition signatures.
Tessa Weinberg and Mariah Woelfel cover city government and politics for WBEZ.