Johnson and Vallas advance to mayoral runoff in Chicago

Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas advanced from a nine candidate field in the Feb. 28, 2023, general election for mayor of Chicago, Illinois, to an April 24 runoff.

Vallas received 33.7% of the vote in the general election. He was the 2014 Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor. He worked as chief administrative officer at Chicago State University and was the CEO of Chicago Public Schools. On the night of the general election, Vallas gave a speech focused on public safety. “Public safety is the fundamental right of every American. It is a civil right. And it is the principle responsibility of government, and we will have a safe Chicago,” he said. The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Vallas.

Johnson received 20.3% of the vote in the general election. He was elected to the Cook County Board of Commissioners as a Democrat in 2018. He was a teacher with Chicago Public Schools and an organizer with the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). In a speech on the night of the general election, Johnson focused on education policy. Johnson thanked CTU for their support and said, “We get to turn the page of the politics of old . . . Every single child in the city gets to have their needs met.” The CTU endorsed Johnson.

Incumbent Lori Lightfoot finished third with 17.1% of the vote. She was elected mayor in 2019, defeating Toni Preckwinkle 74% to 26% in a runoff election after advancing from a 14-candidate general election field. Lightfoot became the first mayor of Chicago to lose a re-election bid since 1983 when Jane Byrne lost her primary.

Although elections are officially nonpartisan, candidates are typically affiliated with one of the major political parties. Johnson and Vallas are both Democrats. The last Republican mayor of Chicago, William Thompson, left office in 1931.

Chicago adopted the system of nonpartisan general elections with a potential runoff beginning with the 1999 mayoral elections. In the six elections between 1999 and 2019, a runoff election occurred twice (2015 and 2019). A candidate won the other four general elections outright (1999, 2003, 2007, and 2011).