Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson is projected to win the Chicago mayoral runoff, replacing Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) as the city’s next top executive, according to The Associated Press.
Johnson, a progressive, won the election against former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, a centrist. The pair made it into the Tuesday runoff after they became the two top vote-getters during the initial Feb. 28 election, which included Lightfoot and eight other candidates.
This is Johnson’s first run for Chicago mayor, and the election comes as voters were forced to choose between two starkly different Democratic challengers.
Speaking to supporters just before 10 p.m. local time, Vallas said that “even though of course we believe every vote should be counted, I called Brandon Johnson and told him that I absolutely expect him to be the next mayor of Chicago.”
Those remarks — part of a less-than-10 minute speech that notably omitted the words “concede” or “concession” — drew boos from the crowd before Vallas interjected “please, please, please. It’s critically, critically important — I mean this campaign that I ran to bring the city together would not be a campaign that fulfilled my ambitions if this election is going to divide us more.”
“So it’s critically important that we use this opportunity to come together, and I’ve offered him my full support on his transition,” he added.
Even before the initial February election, polling had shown that the issue of crime and public safety weighed heavily on Chicago voters in a city that’s still grappling with higher levels of crime compared to before the COVID pandemic.
Vallas, who placed first during this year’s initial February election, campaigned as a tough-on-crime candidate who called to have the Chicago police officer staffing increased, have cops on a more regular neighborhood beat and have more of a police presence on Chicago transit.
Meanwhile, Johnson took a more initiatives-oriented approach to the issue of public safety. Though he advocated for the promotion and hiring of 200 more police detectives, he also spoke about doubling youth employment in the city to more than 60,000 summer jobs and creating an Office of Community Safety.
Johnson, a former teacher and Chicago Teachers Union organizer, however, had to defend previous comments he made expressing support for the “defund the police” movement, which was thrust to the spotlight in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, a Black man who died under the knee of a white cop.
During the course of the race, the Cook County commissioner argued that he would not defund the police when pressed on his position during debates — underscoring how the political landscape over policing has changed in the years since the start of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Vallas was forced to defend his personal politics as Johnson and Lightfoot painted the former CPS executive as a Republican in disguise during the initial February race. Vallas has been targeted for his endorsement from the Fraternal Order of Police, whose president is a supporter of former President Trump, and taken jabs at high-profile Democrats including former President Obama, a former Illinois senator, and President Biden, according to Politico.
Vallas has argued he’s been a “lifelong Democrat” and has previously run as a Democrat in past elections, including as former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s (D) running mate.
Updated: 11:02 p.m. ET