For the past four years, Chicago Ald. Pat Dowell has served as one of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s closest allies on the City Council.
But on Friday, Dowell threw her support behind Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson’s bid to unseat Lightfoot, a major defection from a high-ranking member of the mayor’s leadership team. Johnson unveiled the endorsement at a joint appearance in Dowell’s ward.
“Brandon understands the approach necessary to face the many challenges facing Chicago,” Dowell said in a news release. “His tireless work as a community organizer, public school teacher and Cook County Commissioner illustrates his deep commitment to our City and our many communities. His willingness to sit at the table with other leaders to find beneficial solutions through compromise is exactly the type of Mayor we need during these dire times. Leadership is not a one way conversation with Brandon but a true dialogue.”
Lightfoot did not endorse Dowell when she ran for the congressional seat vacated by Bobby Rush, and the mayor criticized Dowell for voting in favor of repealing Lightfoot’s controversial 6 mph speed camera ticket fine, a measure that failed.
“Residents need to remember these names,” Lightfoot said, unveiling a list that included Dowell.
Dowell, who chairs the City Council budget committee at Lightfoot’s behest, is a high-profile defection from the mayor’s leadership team but not the only one. Lightfoot’s handpicked Zoning Committee chairman, Tom Tunney, endorsed former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas. Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza and Ald. Gilbert Villegas, who Lightfoot also chose to chair City Council committees, have endorsed U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.
Another Lightfoot committee chairman, Ald. Roderick Sawyer, is among the eight candidates running against the mayor.
Political endorsements are largely symbolic and unimportant unless they are followed by major donations or devotions of time. But they often illustrate broader trends about a campaign.
It is rare for such a close ally of a mayor to endorse their rival, which illustrates the challenges Lightfoot has had dealing with aldermen. Garza famously announced she won’t endorse Lightfoot last year during an interview with journalist Ben Joravsky in which she offered a window into the behind-the-scenes complaints aldermen share about the mayor.
“I have never met anybody who has managed to piss off every single person they come in contact with — police, fire, teachers, aldermen, businesses, manufacturing, and that’s it,” Garza said in the interview.
For her part, Lightfoot has disputed “the narrative” that she has a bad relationship with aldermen.
Johnson is backed by progressive labor groups including SEIU Healthcare and the Chicago Teachers Union. He is running to Lightfoot’s left on a platform that criticizes the city’s overreliance on police spending. In response, Lightfoot has criticized Johnson for wanting to “defund” the police.
Lightfoot has collected eight endorsements from sitting aldermen, mostly on the West Side. Johnson has been endorsed by six aldermen and Garcia by five. Ald. Sophia King received an endorsement from Ald. David Moore, who she worked with to rename Lake Shore Drive for Jean Baptiste Point DuSable. Ald. Raymond Lopez endorsed businessman Willie Wilson. Aside from Tunney, Vallas has also been endorsed by Northwest Side Ald. Anthony Napolitano.
Vallas also announced an endorsement from downtown Ald. Brian Hopkins on Friday. Like Tunney, Hopkins flirted with a potential mayoral campaign before bowing out.
Lightfoot’s list of endorsements recently shrunk after Southwest Side Ald. Derrick Curtis told a local newspaper that he is now neutral in the race. Curtis was one of the first aldermen to endorse Lightfoot but he recently complained to the Sun-Times that the mayor did not call him after he accidentally shot himself in the hand.