‘Do not be taken in by the false prophets’ – Chicago Tribune newstrendslive

As Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot campaigned on the West Side last weekend, she focused her attacks on Brandon Johnson, the Cook County commissioner representing that area.

“It’s Saturday and I’m not in church, but I’m going to talk to you about false prophets,” Lightfoot said onstage at the Sankofa Cultural Arts Center in Austin, as she delivered a rebuke of her rival. “(Johnson’s) got this air-brushed, West Sider, ‘Oh I’m a good guy, I’m a person of the people (persona).’ But don’t be fooled. Don’t be fooled. Brandon Johnson wants to tax you out of the city.”

The mayor’s appearance highlighted a subtle shift in her campaign strategy as the candidates enter the last two weeks before the Feb. 28 election. While Lightfoot has worked to build a base of support among Black voters on the South and West sides since announcing her reelection campaign last summer, she has largely ignored Johnson and aimed her fire at businessman Willie Wilson.

But Lightfoot’s recent internal polling shows Johnson’s poll numbers rising and she has started to take him serious as a credible threat to make the runoff, precipitating a series of attacks from the mayor during recent candidate forums and campaign events.

Johnson, for his part, said the criticism is a sign that his campaign is generating traction.

“Look, the movement is getting stronger and it’s growing,” Johnson told the Tribune Monday, after a downtown news conference with a group of Latino campaign supporters. “It just means that we’re winning.”

While wagging her finger at the rapt audience of about 100, Lightfoot castigated Johnson’s recent economic development plan as one that will “drive people out of the city.”

“He said, ‘I’m going to make all these investments,’ but when somebody tells you that, you got to ask them, ‘Well, how are you paying for it?’” Lightfoot said before summarizing Johnson’s bundle of tax proposals, sometimes inaccurately.

Lightfoot first said Johnson wants to impose a city income tax, which is an idea supported by the United Working Families political group that has endorsed Johnson but is not part of Johnson’s own economic plan. She also criticized Johnson for proposing a tax on Metra commuters that he has since walked back, and for proposing an employer head tax that she has said would be a job killer.

“If it walks like a duck, it quacks like a duck, it’s a duck,” Lightfoot said. “Do not be fooled. Do not be taken in by the false prophets. Four years of delivery for the West Side, let’s make sure there’s four more years.”

To be sure, Lightfoot ripped other challengers both before and during the meet-and-greet that morning. She insisted that the two non-Black candidates in the race — U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García and former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas — would neglect the long-forgotten West Side’s economic development as mayor.

“Any vote for somebody not named Lightfoot is making sure that Chuy García or Paul Vallas runs this city, and you know what’s going to happen with them in charge,” Lightfoot said. “They’re never going to see the West Side.”

But the focus on Johnson highlighted an emerging trend as Lightfoot’s campaign hopes to knock him out with residents in majority Black wards and harm him with white voters using anti-tax rhetoric.

Lightfoot allies have also taken aim at Johnson. The 77 Committee, an independent expenditure group created by allies to support her re-election, recently spent $71,000 on advertising against Johnson.

“Brandon Johnson is too extreme for Chicago,” the ad says.

Johnson responded that the mayor and her allies are turning to “right-wing messaging” to attack his campaign.

“She’s obviously afraid and very desperate but our commitment is still to the people of Chicago to make sure we are fully investing in schools, making sure there’s a reliable transportation system, healthcare, affordable housing, a healthy environment,” Johnson said. “I don’t consider those ideas extreme at all.”

With nine candidates in the race, it’s virtually guaranteed that the top two voters in February’s election will face each other in a runoff on April 4.

Johnson potentially cuts into Lightfoot’s support with Black voters and also progressives, as he is backed by left-wing labor groups including the Chicago Teachers Union.

Lightfoot’s recent focus on Johnson is also mirrored by rhetoric at recent campaign rallies where the mayor’s allies have criticized other Black candidates for being in the race and potentially dividing up community support on the South and West Sides.

“She is and has been a friend to the Black community,” New Landmark Baptist Church’s pastor, the Rev. Cy Fields, said.

Another pastor, the Rev. Torrey Barrett, criticized Black candidates he said don’t have a chance of winning for staying in the race.

“Shame on you!” he said.

In the first round of the 2019 mayoral race, Lightfoot emerged from a historic 14-candidate field with roughly 18% of the vote. Much of it came from white lakefront residents on the North Side who backed her over more established politicians. Many of those voters are now disenchanted with Lightfoot, and she has been working vigorously to lock in support from the Black community, where she is expected to be most competitive.

Lightfoot has said she will compete all across the city but much of her campaign has been focused on the South and West Side as she has declared the “destiny” of Black Chicagoans to be on the ballot. Wilson won the most support from African Americans in 2019, which Lightfoot has tried to counter with campaign signs criticizing him for voting for Republican former Gov. Bruce Rauner and President Donald Trump.

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