Chicago – The mayoral candidates in Chicago sparred on Thursday night in a televised debate ahead of the April 4 runoff.
This is the latest big-city mayoral election to put people’ perspectives on crime and policing to the test.
Paul Vallas accused opponent Brandon Johnson of supporting the “defund the police” movement.
Nevertheless, Johnson, a lefty, criticized Vallas’ attempts to expand police officer recruitment as slow and ineffective.
The two mayoral contenders have said that they are Democrats competing in a nonpartisan election.
They advanced to the runoff when incumbent Lori Lightfoot lost her reelection campaign after finishing third in the February 28 primary.
Chicago is a Democratic stronghold, with 83% of residents backing President Joseph Biden in the 2020 presidential race.
Johnson and Vallas, although professing to be members of the same party, are on opposing sides of the party’s schism on police problems.
The more conservative candidate is Paul Vallas, a former public school administrator who has the backing of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police.
His campaign revolves around being pro-police and tough on crime.
Vallas vowed to lower the number of municipal police officers while boosting the number of policemen stationed on CTA buses and trains.
Brandon Johnson is a progressive Cook County commissioner who has the backing of the Chicago Teachers Union.
While Johnson has periodically backed the “defund the cops” movement, he has maintained that he would not cut police spending.
Instead, he plans to boost his investments in underserved areas.
Johnson and Vallas sparred verbally at the mayoral candidate discussion on ABC 7 on Thursday.
Johnson’s prior remarks, in which he broadly favored diverting taxpayer money away from enforcement and toward community-based projects, were brought up by Vallas.
“I’m not going to defund the police, and you know that. You know that,” Johnson responded.
“I have passed multi-billion dollar budgets, over and over again.”
Brandon Johnson went on to announce that he will recruit 200 extra detectives to assist in the investigation of more serious offenses.
He also indicated that he will strive to prevent gun violence by enforcing stronger “red flag” legislation.
Red flag laws allow judges to temporarily seize firearms from those who are judged dangerous to themselves or others.
“The best way to engender confidence in public safety, you’ve got to catch people,” said Johnson.
Similarly, Paul Vallas vowed to quickly fill thousands of police posts.
He intends to station officers in communities and on public transit once the jobs are filled.
“There is no substitute for returning to community-based policing,” said Vallas.
“You can’t have confidence in the safety of public transportation when there are no police officers at the platforms and police officers at the stations.”
As violence in Chicago rose between 2020 and 2021, the mayoral election in Chicago has become increasingly focused on crime.
Shootings and killings have fallen, but other crimes have grown, according to the Chicago Police Department’s 2022 year-end report.
A turn in the race
Paul Vallas stood above the fray in the prior discussion, while Brandon Johnson went on the offensive.
Everything changed on Thursday night when Vallas launched an all-out assault in the opening few minutes of the debate, changing the race into a contender with only three debates and three candidate forums remaining.
Vallas attacked Johnson’s proposal to boost hotel and airline fuel taxes, as well as a $4-per-head corporation tax and a higher sales tax on high-end real estate.
Brandon Johnson stated that Vallas is seeking increased spending on public safety without explaining how he intends to fund it.
“You can’t run a multi-billion dollar budget off of bake sales,” he said.
Vallas then chastised Johnson’s participation in school closures.
Brandon Johnson is a teacher who has openly clashed with Lori Lightfoot on the reintroduction of in-person classes.
According to Vallas, 15 months of closures is not an investment in people.
Johnson said that Paul Vallas was making a Republican argument by condemning school closures due to the epidemic.
“That’s a part of your party,” he said.
Johnson attempted to paint Vallas as being too conservative for the blue metropolis.
President Joseph Biden, Illinois Senators Dick Turbin and Tammy Duckworth, and Illinois Governor JB Pritzker all declined to participate in the runoff.
Nonetheless, other national voices have endorsed Brandon Johnson, including:
- Bernie Sanders
- Elizabeth Warren
- Jim Clyburn
Johnson, according to Sanders, has been a champion for Chicago’s working families.
Toni Preckwinkle, President of the Chicago County Board, also supported Johnson.
But, city alderman and former Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has endorsed Paul Vallas.