Chicago Mayoral Election 2023

Chicago Mayoral Candidates Sharpen Attacks as Election Season Heats Up

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Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García, viewed as a frontrunner in recent polling data, is talking up his credentials as he aims for the Chicago mayorship that eluded him eight years ago, but his rivals, including current Mayor Lori Lightfoot, accuse him of not doing enough for his constituents during time in Washington.

During a press availability Tuesday, García, who lost to Rahm Emanuel in the 2015 mayoral runoff, says that his leadership style is exactly what the city of Chicago needs.

“It’s her way or the highway,” he said of Lightfoot. “This is a period in Chicago’s history where being collaborative, or being cooperative and being engaging are key in setting a big table.”

García defended his Congressional record, citing his work on bringing COVID relief funds and key elements of the recently-passed infrastructure omnibus as legislative achievements.

“I’ve delivered for the city of Chicago,” he said.

The congressman also published a new Women’s Policy Platform on Tuesday, which was endorsed by Illinois House Majority Leader Robyn Gabel. The platform called for protecting reproductive and gender-affirming health care, as well as criminal justice and economic reforms designed to better serve women in the city.

Lightfoot blasted the plan as a “copycat” of her own initiatives, and accused García of delivering a “half-baked platform” on the subject.

Cook County Board Commissioner Brandon Johnson, who has received the support of the Chicago Teachers Union, also was critical of García’s candidacy, saying that he has been content to remain on the sidelines rather than lending a critical voice to the policies of the incumbent mayor.

“He hasn’t said anything about General Iron. He hasn’t said anything about schools reopening,” he said. “He’s collaborated with this current administration, and he did not have a critique until he decided to run.”

García wasn’t the only candidate that drew Lightfoot’s ire, as she also forcefully went after former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas during a women’s rights forum over his perceived lack of support of women’s rights causes.

“All of us took to social media. All of us were doing everything that we could, except for Paul Vallas, who was silent for seven months until today at this forum,” she said. “Shame on you, Paul, for not talking.”

Vallas, who has been gaining traction in the race and recently earned the endorsement of the Chicago chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, said that he has “always been a strong supporter” of reproductive rights, and accused the mayor of attempting to use the issue as a “diversion” from her record on public safety in the city.

“She needs a diversion right now,” he said. “Crime is escalating, violent crime is up 30% this year, and murders are up 41% since she took office.”

Lightfoot also faced criticism from State Rep. Kam Buckner and Chicago Ald. Roderick Sawyer, both of whom spoke at a Tuesday town hall that focused on minority suppliers and contracts in the city’s business community.

“If Black folks are 32% of the city’s population, then Black folks need 32% of those contracts,” Buckner said.

“When we’re 60% of the population (in an area), we should have a majority of the say in the contracts that are coming through,” Sawyer added.

The expectation is that the arguments and debates will only intensify in coming weeks, with early voting set to begin in Chicago on Jan. 26.

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