Since losing the 2019 mayor’s race, Paul Vallas has been a prolific poster on social media.
On his official Facebook and Twitter accounts, Vallas, who’s again running for City Hall’s top job, frequently drops detailed manifestos on crime, schools and more, many of which assail Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s record and push his own ideas for how to lead the city.
But a Tribune review of his social media found his Twitter account @paulvallas liked a series of tweets that used racist language, supported controversial police tactics like “stop and frisk” or insulted the mayor in personal terms.
In a statement Thursday, Vallas said he does not “personally manage” the account and was “shocked when this was brought to my attention because this kind of abhorrent and vile rhetoric does not represent me or my views.”
“While I had nothing to do with liking these posts, our campaign takes responsibility and apologizes, and we want it to be clear that we have already taken immediate steps to restrict access to the account to prevent anything like this from happening again,” Vallas said. “We are working on identifying who is responsible for liking these tweets as many volunteers have had access to the account in recent years, including some who are no longer with the campaign, and will take immediate action in removing them from our campaign if they are still involved.”
Some of the liked tweets predate Vallas’ entry into the mayor’s race last summer.
As Vallas makes his second bid for Chicago mayor, the former Chicago Public Schools CEO has proclaimed himself a “lifelong Democrat” while pivoting to run on law-and-order and other themes that have drawn support from conservatives in the city and state. Much of his political warchest has been raised from Republican donors, which he attributes to his support from the conservative business community.
Over the past few months, Vallas has tried to walk a fine line: Embracing conservative supporters could help get him past the Feb. 28 election into a runoff, but that could alienate the rest of the city if he wants to win on April 4.
Vallas has faced criticism from Lightfoot and others who have accused him of using a racist dog whistle by saying the campaign is about “taking back our city,” which his campaign denies has anything to do with race.
His Twitter likes, however, have favored posts that speak about race or employ homophobic political language.
At least three of the posts under his Twitter’s “Likes” refer to Lightfoot — a lesbian who is the first openly LGBTQ mayor of Chicago — as “Larry.” “I bet larry lightfoot is with his family today,” one user wrote last June in response to Vallas giving a shoutout to police officers and other first responders for Father’s Day.
Other tweets liked by the account mocked Lightfoot’s physical appearance.
“Trust has eroded just like her hairline!” one November 2021 tweet said in response to a post Vallas made on how Lightfoot presented crime statistics.
In November 2021, Vallas’ account liked another reply to one of his tweets, this one from a user saying Lightfoot is “beyond human! The hatred she has for the police is so disgusting! How do her bodyguards put up with her?”
In December 2021, the Vallas account also liked a tweet reply calling Lightfoot “the Gnome on the 5th floor.”
After Vallas announced in June that he would enter the 2023 Chicago mayor’s race, the account continued to like tweets that derided Democrats and played into racial and gender divisions.
“Just don’t push that democratic agenda that the citizens of Chicago are tired of,” one June 2022 post said. “You know defund this, reform that, color this, female that, We just want someone to do the job.”
Back in April 2022, the Vallas account liked a tweet insinuating Chicago police superintendent David Brown was a diversity hire and calling the mayor a racist.
“He was hired for one reason and one reason only. He was black,” the tweet said. “Other candidates were more qualified, but they weren’t black. Lightfoot is a racist, big news flash.”
After Chicago Police chief of detectives Brendan Deenihan announced he would be leaving the department, the Vallas account liked a February 2023 tweet that says Deenihan “sees the writing on the wall, as a white male his ascension on CPD is limited. Identity over competency.”
Though Vallas campaigns for mayor as a “lifelong Democrat,” he draws attacks for his associations with conservatives, including the firebrand Chicago Fraternal Order of Police president John Catanzara and right-wing former state Rep. Jeanne Ives, who unsuccessfully ran for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2018.
Vallas also came under fire last summer for attending an event for Awake Illinois, a suburban group which has taken extreme positions and called Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker a “groomer.” He later said his attendance was a mistake, but the organization recently published a clip from a March 2021 rally of him saying its president, Shannon Adcock, should maybe run for governor.
Most recently, Vallas has had to navigate an endorsement from the FOP, which represents most Chicago rank-and-file police officers and is helmed by a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump. At first Vallas sidestepped questions on the union’s conservative leanings, but he has had to be more forceful and say the FOP “disappointed” him when it agreed to attend a speech by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whom Vallas described as a “right-wing extremist.”
Many of the tweets Vallas’ account liked portray the city as a disaster zone ravaged by crime, such as this reply from December 2021 that says: “The Mag Mile will soon be Dystopian Way, akin to a road out of a Mad Max movie. Made desolate by the total indifference of woke Ald.Reilly & Rep Quigley & the 5th Floor Gnome.”
Among the Vallas account’s Twitter likes in recent years, several have been ones blasting Democratic politicians, including about Pritzker’s handling of crime and the pandemic, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s prosecutorial decisions and demands that she be recalled, and critical tweets about Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle from her Republican opponent, Bob Fioretti.
Lastly, multiple tweets liked by @paulvallas have praised the “stop-and-frisk” policing tactic that allows forced searches based on “reasonable suspicion.” The practice has grown widely unpopular amid charges of racial profiling — complaints that Chicago police have also fielded from the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and in lawsuits.
“Exactly! NYC became the safest city in the US thanks to Stop , Question & Frisk and Broken Windows . Bring in Bill Bratton who turned NYC around in 6 months . Learn from history,” said one tweet that the Vallas account liked from July 2022, referring to a former New York Police Department commissioner who backed the policy.
Another one a month before then simply asked, “Do you support Stop, Question & Frisk?” Vallas did not reply — but his account gave it a like.