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It's Election Day in Chicago and Lori Lightfoot Might Be in Trouble

AP Photo/Erin Hooley

Voters in the Windy City are heading to the polls Tuesday to pick their next mayor, but it's unlikely we'll know the winner on Election Day and will need to wait until a runoff election is held on April 4 to settle the score between the first- and second-place finishers from Tuesday's first round of voting.


Incumbent Democrat Mayor Lori Lightfoot is running for her second term, but she faces a whopping eight challengers — making it almost certain that a runoff will be necessary. Some of her opponents have been beating her in recent polls, like this one Townhall reported in January that had the incumbent in fourth place. Since last month, Lightfoot's standing has improved slightly, but she's still not in the lead according to a recent average of polls:

Perhaps unsurprisingly, all nine candidates for mayor are Democrats, but their experiences, endorsements, and priorities vary. 

Lori Lightfoot, as the incumbent mayor, has the tough job of overcoming what many residents see as a failed first term. A recent approval poll found just 32 percent of registered voters think Lightfoot is doing a good job while 61 percent said they disapprove of her performance. That's one of several data points that likely led Lightfoot to say recently that she's "very confident that we will be in a runoff" after Tuesday's results are in. 


One major issue, if not the issue, in Tuesday's election is crime — and what can be done to crack down on the violence that's terrorizing residents. 

Among those seeking to capitalize on Lightfoot's unpopularity to unseat the current mayor is U.S. Rep. Chuy Garcia, a former Cook County commissioner and Illinois state legislator. Garcia unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2015, but came in second place behind incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel in that cycle's five-way contest. This time around, Garcia said on Monday his campaign is "pretty fired up and feel quite confident that we will be in the runoff at the end of the day tomorrow and then go on to round two."

Paul Vallas, who served as the CEO of Chicago Public Schools from 1995 to 2001 and came in ninth place in the 2019 race for mayor, has been polling better this time around, leading the crowded field in the polling average. The brighter prospects in this cycle could be, in part, thanks to the endorsement he received from Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police amid his crime-focused campaign. 

Another candidate with some backing from powerful unions in the city is Brandon Johnson, who serves as a Cook County commissioner but used to be a teacher and, as such, has been endorsed by a handful of teachers unions in the Windy City. Johnson's standing in the polls has improved toward the end of the campaign, making him another potential runoff candidate. 


Sophia King, as a member of the Chicago City Council, isn't a stranger to city hall and has been cozy with prominent allies such as the Obamas, but there haven't been any official endorsements from the former president or first lady, despite the 44th president backing King in her 2017 council race. King has been topping out between five and six percent in the polls, but pointed to "a lot of undecided voters in a race of nine people" on Monday. "I think that's good for us," King added.

Another member of the Chicago City Council, Roderick Sawyer, is looking to follow in the footsteps of his father, Eugene Sawyer, who took over as mayor of Chicago in the late 1980s to replace the late Mayor Harold Washington following his sudden death. In the polls, though, Sawyer hasn't been able to grow support to two percent. 

Kam Buckner was raised on Chicago's South Side by a law enforcement officer and a teacher, and currently serves in the Illinois state House. His resume includes stints working for Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and teaching at the University of Chicago. His polling performance has seemingly maxed out between five and six percent. 

One of the candidates seeking to run to Lightfoot's left is Ja'Mal Green, a progressive community activist whose causes include Bernie Sanders' campaigns, Black Lives Matter, and climate change protests. Green previously mounted a bid for mayor in 2019, but withdrew before Election Day. This time around, Green's showing in the polls has peaked just shy of seven percent. But on Monday, Green predicted his campaign was "going to shock the world tomorrow and show them that people who usually aren't engaged, that can't be polled, are going to turn out and say something different."


Rounding out the packed field is perennial candidate and medical supply magnate Willie Wilson, who in recent runs has drawn roughly ten percent of the vote. Thanks to backing from the Cook County Republican Party, a group that's endorsed him in a previous election as well, he's polling in the double-digits again this time around. His decision to give away some $1.2 million in free gas in the Chicagoland area last spring probably didn't hurt either. Notably, Wilson endorsed Lightfoot in the 2019 campaign, but now says that was a "hell of a mistake." 

For more on the candidates running in Tuesday's election, check out Decision Desk's summary:

Polls in Chicago close at 7:00 p.m. Central Time on Tuesday, but the number of mail-in ballots could add to the time necessary to tabulate all the results and determine whether a runoff is necessary and which two candidates will advance to the final round. Before Election Day, more than 100,000 mail-in ballots had been cast, along with nearly 110,000 early voting ballots, surpassing the numbers seen in recent previous mayoral elections.

As always, Townhall will have live vote totals from our election results partner Decision Desk HQ from Chicago on Tuesday evening after polls close, followed by more reporting in the days ahead as Chicago chooses its next leader. 


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