Chicago Teachers Union President Stacy Davis Gates says she won’t run for mayor despite years of speculation, but union ally and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson is hinting at a potential campaign of his own.
Speaking at a City Club of Chicago luncheon Monday on the first day of classes for Chicago Public Schools students, Davis Gates said “everybody in this room knows you all need a new mayor.”
“But it won’t be me,” she said after applause. “I really love my job.”
Ever since the 2019 teachers’ strike when Davis Gates stepped into prominent public view, onlookers and even Mayor Lori Lightfoot herself have predicted she may run in 2023. Davis Gates has previously deflected questions about a potential campaign but hadn’t shut the door.
Asked why she won’t run for mayor, Davis Gates told reporters in a briefing after her speech Monday that she views her position as CTU president, to which she was elected earlier this year, as “the best job in the world.”
“Our members have created a space where we can lift our voices to provide balance to this city,” she said. “I get to do the good stuff in Chicago. I get to be a full-time leader for justice and equity.”
Johnson is a longtime CTU ally who is paid by both taxpayers as a Cook County commissioner and CTU members as a union staff organizer. He attended the luncheon and joined Davis Gates and other union leaders in addressing the media afterward, where he was asked if he planned to announce a campaign.
“What I am proud of and can say with tremendous confidence is that there are a number of organizations, labor leaders, community organizations, politicians and folks in the faith community that have repeatedly asked me to take the leadership that I’ve done as an organizer, as a teacher and as a Cook County commissioner, to the fifth floor,” Johnson said.
“And I’m humbled that we are in a position to elect a new direction for the city of Chicago.”
He said when his “decision is finalized” he’ll let everyone know.
Johnson hit Lightfoot on a number of issues on which he feels she has “failed miserably,” from schools, to violence, the environment and affordable housing.
“We’re going to continue to fight and push for an equitable and just city,” Johnson said. “And the particular leader that is there, much like her predecessor, does not see our values.
“If I do decide to run for mayor, we’re literally creating communities where the mayor of Chicago, if it’s me, couldn’t even afford to live in my own community.”
Davis Gates wouldn’t say if she or the CTU would endorse Johnson if he runs — which to many is a foregone conclusion given he’s on the union’s staff and is making public appearances with CTU leaders. She said the union must go through its democratic processes and members will decide who to back in the race.
The city needs a new mayor who’s “not afraid of hard work,” Davis Gates said, and who “speaks to the needs of the people.”
“It’s a challenge to the voters to get what they need out of 2023,” she said. “Chicago knows what it needs. It needs a partner, it needs an organizer, it needs someone who’s in love with humanity. We don’t have that right now. And the Chicago Teachers Union is going to work with others to get what we need.”