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Who are Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson? Two candidates seek to be Chicago's next mayor after Lightfoot's loss

Who are Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson, the two candidates headed into an April runoff election to become Chicago's next mayor after putting an end to incumbent Mayor Lightfoot's one-term tenure?

Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson advanced Tuesday to a runoff election as they seek to become the Windy City's next mayor, putting an end to incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot's one-term tenure leading the city amid an unprecedented crime wave.

Who are the two candidates looking to come out on top in the April 4 runoff election?

Vallas — a Chicago native who previously ran for mayor of the city in 2019 and ultimately endorsed Lightfoot after placing ninth out of 14 candidates that cycle — came in first in Tuesday's vote for Chicago mayor, garnering more than 170,000 votes.

Backed by the Fraternal Order of Police, a nationwide organization representing thousands of sworn law enforcement officers across the U.S., Vallas made the issue of crime in Chicago a central focus of his campaign.


"Mayor Vallas will ensure that criminals are held accountable so that the city is safe again," Vallas' campaign website states. "Residents in ALL neighborhoods will feel safe. Suburbanites and tourists will no longer fear traveling downtown."

During his victory speech Tuesday, Vallas, who has repeatedly said he will take action on issues surrounding the crime wave throughout in the Windy City, vowed to make Chicago the "safest city in America."

"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," Vallas told his supporters. "We will make Chicago the safest city in America."

Vallas also touted his support for gay marriage and protections for abortion — two major political issues in Chicago.

Other priorities in Vallas' campaign include education, which his website says he will treat as the "civil rights issue that it is," and balancing the city's budget.

Johnson, whose career began as a public school teacher at Jenner Academy located in Chicago's Near North Side, came in second place in Tuesday's round of voting for mayor, trailing Vallas by nearly 70,000 votes.

With the support of multiple teachers unions, voter support for Johnson outweighed that received by Lightfoot, who trailed Johnson's more than 103,000 votes by a little more than 16,000 votes early Wednesday morning.


Unlike Vallas, Johnson's Tuesday night victory speech did not emphasize crime, which is viewed as a large concern for voters in the city. Instead, Johnson discussed his path to a second place victory in Tuesday's election and insisted that he overcame doubt after being viewed as an underdog in the race.

Championed by progressives, Johnson also took direct aim at Vallas, who he claimed "is someone who is supported by the Jan. 6 insurrectionists."

"He switched parties when President Barack Obama became president of the United States. He went as far as to say he’s more of a Republican than anything else. He says he fundamentally opposes abortion. These are direct quotes," Johnson said of Vallas.

Amid political unrest that swept the nation in 2020 following the death of George Floyd, Johnson introduced a resolution calling for Cook County to "redirect funds from policing and incarceration to public services not administered by law enforcement," according to the Chicago Tribune

"A hundred years from now… the question will be, did we do everything in our power to stand up to systemic racism? Or did we flinch?" Johnson told fellow commissioners before the vote on the resolution, according to the outlet. "This will give the county commissioners a road map for taking millions of waste spent on incarceration and policing and reinvesting it."

Johnson's priorities, according to his campaign website, range from "public safety and police reform" and "environmental justice" to "gender equity" and "education."

Johnson, according to the website, is "passionate about making sure that every student in Chicago — regardless of their race, income or zip code — receives a fully resourced, supportive, safe and healthy learning environment."

Additionally, Johnson says on his campaign website that he aims to "work closely with the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability to hold police accountable and evaluate the goals and performance of the CPD, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability and the Police Board."

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