Paul Vallas touted his first endorsement Thursday since winning the initial round of voting in the Chicago mayoral election: that of longtime former Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White.
White’s backing is a boost for Vallas, as White enjoyed immense popularity during his nearly 25 years in the statewide office and as Illinois’ highest-ranking Black politician. White’s name was well-known as the operator of state’s driver’s license facilities and also for the eponymous tumbling group he founded. He stepped down from his elected office this year at age 88, having regularly won reelection with more than 60% of the vote, even succeeding in Republican-leaning counties.
“Starting this runoff campaign with the support of an icon like Jesse White shows exactly the kind of broad, diverse coalition that we are building,” Vallas tweeted when making the announcement.
Vallas has sought to position himself as the tough-on-crime candidate, which was echoed in White’s remarks Thursday announcing his endorsement.
Of course, our neighborhoods will be better,” White said, “because you are going to put law enforcement on the streets so they can discharge their duties in a manner that will make the people of our city and the people who visit our city safe.”
Vallas, the only white candidate in a nine-person race, emerged on top after Tuesday’s first round of voting but did not fare particuarly well in predominantly Black areas of the city. Vallas advanced to the April 4 runoff with Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, while incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot missed the cut by placing third.
Yet in fact, it was Lightfoot who swept all 16 Black majority wards Tuesday, suggesting both Vallas and Johnson have work to do to win Black votes in April.