Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s campaign spent twice as much money as she raised in the final three months of 2022 as she launched expensive television ads aimed at rebuilding momentum in her bid for reelection.
Lightfoot began the quarter with $2.9 million in the bank and raised a little less than $1.5 million, according to newly filed campaign disclosure records. But the reelection-seeking mayor spent roughly $3 million from October through December, leaving her with about $1.4 million before the Feb. 28 mayoral election where she faces eight opponents.
Lightfoot — who is facing public concerns about crime, dissatisfaction with her leadership style and anger over some broken promises — launched her first television ads in November and spent more than $1.9 million on advertising alone in the final two months of the year, according to the filing with the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Lightfoot’s initial TV commercials attempted to address the issue of crime in Chicago and also aimed to soften her image of combativeness as it replayed her inaugural speech nearly four years ago discussing her upbringing. More recently, Lightfoot has gone on the attack against mayoral opponent U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, criticizing him for ties to indicted former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and alleged crypto fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried in an attempt at bloodying up a top rival.
But Lightfoot’s expenses have outpaced how much money her campaign has been bringing in, a practice that has been seen before. Last year, the Tribune reported that Lightfoot spent campaign cash faster than she had been raising it, leaving her with less political cash than she had shortly after winning office in April 2019.
The mayor will continue raising money through the February 28 Election Day and remains close to several of her rivals in the race in terms of cash on hand, including Garcia, businessman Willie Wilson, Cook County commissioner Brandon Johnson, former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas
Still, Lightfoot’s financial footing is a contrast to her two predecessors, former Mayors Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel, who tapped the advantage of incumbency to build massive campaign war chests aimed at discouraging challengers from entering the race, and then used that cash to quickly define those who did through attack ads. She has not been able to match their fundraising pace.
The newly filed campaign reports also show Lightfoot’s political allies struggling to raise money. Her former political director, Dave Mellet, helped launch an independent expenditure campaign fund unbound by how much money contributors can give or who they are — restrictions Lightfoot must abide by — to support Lightfoot.
But the committee only raised $100,000 in the final quarter of 2022, a paltry sum compared with a similar effort by Emanuel supporters in 2014 to support his reelection campaign. That fund raised more than $5 million in one year to help Emanuel win a second term.
The next-highest fundraising total came from Johnson, who raised $1.8 million and spent $578.000, leaving him with $1.3 million on hand. Johnson recently launched expensive TV commercials aimed at introducing him to voters, a prerequisite if he is going to leapfrog bigger-name candidates.
Vallas raised $1.1 million and spent $840,000, leaving him with $1.1 million on hand. Vallas, who finished a distant seventh in the last election, has also launched television ads focused on crime.
Garcia is the only other candidate who raised more than $1 million. Garcia raised $1.4 million and spent $151,000, leaving him with $1.3 million. Unlike Lightfoot, Vallas and Johnson, Garcia hasn’t yet launched television ads or spent much. Instead, he has been relying on his high name recognition due to his 2015 campaign against Emanuel and long career in public life, but he is expected to spend more as Election Day draws near.
Ald. Sophia King, who represents parts of the downtown lakefront and Hyde Park in City Council, took in $231,000 and spent $219,000, leaving her with $229,000.
State rep. Kambium “Kam” Buckner raised nearly $127,000 but spent $106,000, leaving him with $28,000.
Ald. Roderick Sawyer raised $42,500 and spent $25,000, leaving him with $36,000.
Wilson raised less than $3,000 and spent $587,000. He ended the quarter with $4.1 million on hand, however, as he previously lent himself millions of dollars.
Activist Ja’Mal Green raised $22,000 and spent $23,000, leaving him with almost $13,000 at the end of the quarter.