Brandon Johnson would ‘destroy’ economy; Paul Vallas ‘failed everywhere he has gone’ – Chicago Tribune newstrendslive

Chicago’s mayoral runoff campaign has officially begun, with finalist Brandon Johnson the first to go on the offensive against Paul Vallas as the rivals shared starkly differing visions for the city’s future.

Johnson, a Cook County commissioner and organizer with the Chicago Teachers Union, fired the opening salvo during his victory speech Tuesday night following the stunning loss of first-term Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who became the first full-time mayor to fail in a reelection bid since 1983.

“This is the truth about Paul Vallas: He has literally failed everywhere he has gone. In fact, Paul Vallas is the author of ‘The Tale of Two Cities,’” Johnson said, again accusing the former Chicago Public Schools CEO of being a closet Republican, a label that Vallas forcefully denies. “Chicago, we cannot have this man as the mayor of the city of Chicago.”

Wednesday afternoon, Vallas held a news conference across from City Hall and mostly deflected by criticizing Johnson’s plans on taxes and policing.

Mayoral candidate Paul Vallas greets supporters at the Thompson Center plaza on March. 1, 2023, in Chicago.

“Individuals who really have no track record or are trying to hide their track record are generally going to get nasty. But Brandon still has to explain his so-called tax the rich plan — that doesn’t look like a ‘tax the rich’ plan to me when you’re talking about head taxes,” Vallas said about his opponent’s plan to enact a $4 per employee head tax at large companies that perform 50% or more of their work in Chicago, as well as raise the city’s hotel tax. “I mean, that’s not a ‘tax the rich’ plan. That’s (a) ‘let’s destroy Chicago’s economy’ plan.”

Vallas said he will continue to focus on public safety and schools for the next five weeks as he campaigns for the April 4 runoff.

Johnson, meanwhile, hammered Vallas’ record on education during a series of media appearances while also dodging his rival’s attacks against him. On WVON-AM 1 690 Wednesday afternoon, he said Vallas has been “an absolute nightmare” for the school districts of Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Bridgeport, Connecticut, which he has led.

The commissioner also again dodged a question about his stance on defunding the police, which he embraced in 2020 but has watered down his stance after launching his campaign. When asked again, he passionately shot back, “I get how they are trying to paint a brother.”

He also rejected the argument that Chicago couldn’t afford the investments he wants to make, claiming the city has plenty to go around.

“What I’ve said repeatedly is that too often, the politics of Chicago, it forces communities to fight over one pie,” Johnson said. “My philosophy is let’s just make more pies. Let’s make cakes, I don’t know, we got vegans out there, you know, let’s have Oreo cookies.”

Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson speaks with supporters during his election night gathering on Feb. 28, 2023.

Early returns from Tuesday night suggest that the outcome on April 4 remains uncertain as both candidates must make inroads to expand their base. Turnout also fell short of February 2019′s 35% levels, with only 33% of registered voters casting ballots this cycle.

Along the northern lakefront, Vallas easily won the ritzier swath from downtown to Lincoln Park, but starting at the 44th Ward in Lakeview, Johnson’s share shot up to 29% versus Vallas’ 42% and continued to rise approaching the northern border of the city. Lightfoot was slightly ahead of U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García, who finished fourth overall among nine first-round candidates, and their share combined made up about 20% of the vote downtown and 30% in Rogers Park — ensuring that both finalists will have to compete for their supporters.

Vallas also handily won the first Asian majority ward, 11th, while narrowly eking out a victory over Lightfoot in the “Black-influence” 27th Ward that has a plurality Black population. And Vallas won all heavy city worker-wards along the Bungalow Belt on the Far Northwest and Southwest sides, but Johnson commanded control of the white-plurality Milwaukee Avenue wards on the North and Northwest Side.

The mayor swept all 16 majority Black wards, tracking with her strategy to pivot her base from white lakefront voters to Black ones. But Lightfoot’s plan was doomed, partly thanks to businessman Willie Wilson’s reliable base in those neighborhoods also turning out for him — up to 26% in the 16th Ward in Englewood — as well as Johnson coming in second in the Lake Michigan-adjacent 4th and 5th wards, as well as the 20th Ward in Woodlawn.

The areas with the lowest turnout among registered voters per ward were concentrated in the West and South sides, with the 16th in Englewood, the 28th and 37th on the West Side and the 15th and 22nd on the Southwest Side, garnering the smallest percentages in that order.

García dominated the 22nd and another Southwest Side ward, the 14th, as well the Northwest Side 31st Ward, areas with a large concentration of Latinos. Vallas came in second in all three of those wards and also won two Far Southwest Side Latino majority wards — 23rd and 13th — as well as 10th on the Southeast Side, 30th on the Northwest Side and 36th along Grand Avenue from West Town to Montclare. It was Johnson who came out on top in the 26th, 35th and 33rd wards, although the last two are barely majority Latino.

One of the WVON listeners Wednesday, introduced as “Peter,” seemed concerned over how Johnson would fare with Latinos.

“You need to resurrect Harold Washington’s coalition,” he said before the hosts asked him what his actual question was. “I don’t know how fluent you are in Spanish.”

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