Chicago Sun-Times


New on the runoff trail, Johnson vows to provide ‘what the families want’ — instead of rival’s ‘failed politics of old’


Cook County Commission­er Brandon Johnson on Wednesday called his second-place finish in the mayoral race “humbling” and “exhilarati­ng” — and he pushed back on the notion that his progressiv­e platform might be a stretch for some Chicago voters.

“What I do know is the city of Chicago needs a better, stronger, safer city. And that means making sure that our schools are fully supported and funded, reliable transporta­tion, good-paying jobs, affordable housing, pathway to homeowners­hip,” Johnson told the Sun-Times.

“I mean, these are things that are not extreme or radical ideas. It’s what the families want in the city of Chicago,” he said.

Johnson, 46, spoke with the Sun-Times less than 12 hours after clinching his spot in the April runoff with former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, 69.

Johnson touted his support for a higher tax rate for the “ultra rich” — a position that puts him at odds with the city’s higher income residents, and sets him up for even more of a fundraisin­g war. And with Vallas having successful­ly focused his campaign on crime — and rallying support from police officers — Johnson will have to place a hyper focus on his own public safety plan.

Vallas’ crime plan includes filling 1,700 police vacancies and taking the “handcuffs off” officers to help fight crime. It also entailed firing Chicago Police Supt. David Brown and his entire leadership team and ended with “restoring beat integrity” and adding about 700 new officers. Johnson also vowed to fire Brown — who on Wednesday announced his resignatio­n.

Other than their agreement to ditch Brown, Johnson and Vallas stake out very clear ideologica­l difference­s in their crime platforms.

Johnson said his public safety plan would deal with the immediate violence crisis by promoting detectives, implementi­ng the federal consent decree overseeing the police department, creating more jobs for young people and opening mental health centers.

It also includes closing the Chicago Police Department’s Homan Square facility and erasing what he called a “racist” gang database. His public safety plan would be funded in part by his tax-the-rich plan — which he wants to take in $1 billion to pay for new spending on schools, transporta­tion, health care and new housing. But it does not include a plan to raise the income tax rate on those making $100,000 — part of a wish list from United Working Families, a group that endorsed Johnson.

“My plan works. Paul Vallas has been dishonest, as he always has been,” Johnson said. “The safest cities in America invest in people. He has made promises that he can’t keep. What Paul Vallas has put forth is the “same old, same old” that continues to leave communitie­s behind and it makes us less safe.”

Vallas led the field with 33.8% of the vote, to Johnson’s 20.3% — meaning Johnson will have to gain the support of the 17.1% of voters who chose Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the 13.7% who voted for U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

That includes the broad support the mayor received on the South Side and portions of the West and Northwest sides of the city and Garcia’s support on the Southwest Side and parts of the South Side.

Johnson on Wednesday said he has not yet spoken to the other candidates to ask for their support: “We’ll start having those political conversati­ons in the days ahead.”

It’s also unclear whether Gov. J.B. Pritzker will endorse a candidate in the April 4 election. Pritzker made no mayoral endorsemen­t in the first round of voting.

Vallas held a fundraisin­g lead heading into the Feb. 28 election, with $5,265,640.92 on hand. Johnson has $3,362,809.96 cash on hand, election records show. And those funds will undoubtedl­y go in part to help get both candidates back on the TV airwaves as soon as possible.

Johnson said he’ll be back on TV soon — but he’ll also be focusing on grassroots organizing, including knocking on doors, phone banking and house parties.

“We had dozens and dozens of house parties all over the city of Chicago, organizing rooms full of people. And that led us to being able to get our message out digitally on radio and on television,” Johnson said.

“So you should fully anticipate that. That our campaign will be competitiv­e and that my candidacy of the broad-based multicultu­ral, multigener­ational movement has placed me in this historic moment.”

Of his competitor, Johnson said he’ll push the message that “Paul Vallas is wrong on a lot of things.” He also said he’d campaign on the platform that the “failed politics of old” are not what voters want.

“I’m going to tell people the truth, and the truth of the matter is that my record is a record that speaks to investing in people, in challengin­g the city of Chicago in a way that I think the people of Chicago want to experience,” Johnson said.

“To be in a position where the city of Chicago is convinced that we cannot go back to the old form of politics and ushering in something better, stronger, so that our city can be safer, it’s quite exhilarati­ng,” he said.

 ?? ASHLEE REZIN/SUN-TIMES ?? Mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson greets supporters Sunday during a campaign house party in North Lawndale on the Southwest Side.
ASHLEE REZIN/SUN-TIMES Mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson greets supporters Sunday during a campaign house party in North Lawndale on the Southwest Side.

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