VALLAS, JOHNSON PICK UP RUNOFF ENDORSEMENTS
Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas both picked up key endorsements in the race for mayor Sunday, a week before early voting is slated to begin March 20.
Bishop Larry Trotter, a South Side pastor, endorsed Johnson, the Cook County commissioner, in the April 4 mayoral runoff. Meanwhile, Southwest Side Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th) and former fellow mayoral candidate Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) endorsed Vallas, the former Chicago Public Schools boss.
In his endorsement, Trotter called Johnson the “right person” for City Hall.
“He has a plan. And it’s fresh, it’s new,” Trotter told his congregation at Sweet Holy Spirit Church, 8621 S. South Chicago Ave.
“I just think this is an hour we should put the right people — the qualified people and the people who love God — in office,” he said.
Trotter had endorsed businessman Willie Wilson in the Feb. 28 primary election, but Wilson failed to make the runoff. The minister said Wilson had urged him to follow suit in endorsing Vallas, but Trotter broke with Wilson and endorsed his rival.
“It is very clear that I supported Dr. Willie Wilson. And he’s a friend of ours — a friend to this church — and remains a friend,” Trotter said.
At the pulpit, Johnson spoke briefly about his political awakening 15 years ago as a Chicago Public Schools middle school teacher at Cabrini Green.
“It’s there where my politics begin to transform. Because my students could look out their back windows and see one of the wealthiest communities in the world, while out their back windows bulldozers stared them down, preparing to destroy their public housing,” Johnson said.
“I’m running to become the next mayor of Chicago to finally retire this tale of two cities and usher in one story for one Chicago,” he said.
Johnson challenged Vallas’ tough-on-crime messaging by saying that as a resident of Austin, he is the candidate with the most motivation to improve public safety.
“It is one of the more violent neighborhoods of the entire city. No one in this race has more incentive for a better, stronger, safer Chicago than someone who was raising a family on the West Side of Chicago,” Johnson said.
Trotter has been pastor at Sweet Holy Spirit Church for 40 years. He has worked with the campaigns of former Mayor Harold Washington and former President Barack Obama, according to his church’s online biography.
Lopez, who was the first candidate to drop out of the race for mayor, announced his endorsement at a rally for Vallas at the Midwest Coalition for Stop the Violence in Englewood.
The rally was organized by African American and Latino leaders who said they were “disturbed that race is beginning to overshadow” the election and wanted to steer the conversation back to the key issues affecting the city.
“I know that there are many people trying to get us twisted right now,” Lopez said. “I know there are individuals trying to pit us against our own families. Against our own neighbors, against what we know is true. They are going to fail miserably come April 4.”
During their first televised debate since the runoff, Vallas and Johnson accused each other of trying to, as Vallas put it, “make race the issue” in the campaign between Black and white candidates where the African American vote is likely to be decisive.
Johnson appeared to fan those flames at the debate when he accused Vallas of “hanging out with right-wing extremists who have attacked women” on the issue of abortion and of opposing the teaching of Black history in Chicago Public Schools.
Speakers at the rally defended Vallas from those accusations and told personal stories of their relationship with Vallas to the more than 100 people in attendance, the vast majority of whom were Black.
Michael Johnson, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County in Wisconsin, said that he owes much of his success to the opportunities that Vallas gave him when he was just out of college. Vallas gave him a job at Chicago Public Schools and helped tutor him while he was pursuing his MBA, Johnson said.
“People are attacking my friend, and he is trying not to dig in the mud,” Johnson said, “He is trying to focus on the issues.”
Vallas told rally-goers that he is committed to bringing back investment to the South and West Sides and making streets safer for residents. He told them to not pay attention to what his critics are saying and to focus on his record instead.
“I have not gone around criticizing or comparing my record to my opponent’s, and you gotta ask yourself, who’s managed multimillion-dollar budgets? Who’s actually hired Blacks and Latinos from the community? Who has put them in positions of power?” Vallas asked the crowd.
Ald. Roderick Sawyer, who previously endorsed Vallas, aldermanic candidate Andre Smith and Melissa Johnson, president of Just Equality Systems for Us, were also at the Vallas rally.