Chicago elects the mayor in a race dominated by crime and policing

CHICAGO — Chicagoans took to the polls Tuesday morning to vote in hard-fought mayoral and city council races that have largely focused on crime, policing and the performance of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is serving a second term at the helm of the third-largest city of the country aspires .

Ms. Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor who ran for change agent and vowed to root out corruption and reform the Chicago Police Department, won 74 percent of the vote in the last ballot when she was elected four years ago, a favorite of the progressives, which she felt was a historic victory as the city’s first black woman mayor.

Since then, however, she has faced widespread voter discontent, and many have thrown their support to other candidates: eight challengers have opposed her, and if one candidate wins no more than 50 percent of the vote – a highly unlikely scenario – the top two finishers on Tuesday will advance to a runoff on April 4th.

Polls suggest Ms Lightfoot, whose rivals have positioned themselves on both her political left and right, is in stiff competition for one of those spots. voters have said Survey that issues driving the race include crime, the economy, education and immigration.

Perhaps most threatening to Ms. Lightfoot’s re-election chances is the rise in murders and shootings in 2020 and 2021, as well as civil unrest and looting that have blighted retailers, including those on the famous Magnificent Mile. In 2021, robberies, thefts and burglaries increased from the previous year, leaving many Chicagoans unsettled about the city’s direction.

Monica Jain, a real estate manager who lives in the Gold Coast neighborhood near downtown Chicago, exited a polling station on Monday and said she heard Ms Lightfoot talk about how some crime rates have now come down. But Ms. Jain said, “I am concerned about the south and west sides,” where gun violence is most acute.

One of the frontrunners in the race is Paul Vallas, a Democrat with more conservative views on crime and education, who has portrayed Chicago as in a state of disarray. With support from the local police order, he called for expanding police forces, increasing arrest rates for serious crimes, and expanding charter schools.

But when Ms Lightfoot made her final pitch to voters this weekend, she pointed to investments in long-neglected neighborhoods and argued the city has emerged from the coronavirus pandemic in a strong position.

“If it’s important to you to make sure we continue to right historical wrongs and invest in areas of our city that have been without for far too long, that’s on the ballot,” Ms Lightfoot told a crowd at a union house on Saturday.

Voters seemed unsure if they were ready to give her another chance. Chicago mayors have broad powers, even compared to mayors in New York City and Los Angeles: they oversee the extensive public transportation system, police and fire departments, schools, parks, and other agencies. And when crime spikes or potholes aren’t filled, Chicagoans tend to blame their mayor.

Ms Lightfoot, 60, has experienced a cascade of crises since taking office. In 2019, she clashed with the powerful teachers’ union, resulting in an 11-day strike, the longest in decades. Then, in 2020, the pandemic struck, sending unemployment skyrocketing and leaving skyscrapers in the Loop mostly empty of workers and Chicago businesses struggling to survive.

The economy has since recovered and downtown Chicago is once again attracting tourists and conventions. But Ms. Lightfoot seems to have made far more enemies than friends as mayor, struggling to garner support on the city council and earning a reputation as a combative and moody leader.

Mr Vallas, 69, has taken the lead in the polls but has also been dogged by ideological contradictions. He called in a television interview in 2009 that he considered himself more of a Republican than a Democrat, a blow to Mr. Vallas in the eyes of many voters in predominantly liberal Chicago. Last week, The Chicago Tribune reported that Mr Vallas’ Twitter account had liked a number of tweets that used abusive and racist language; Mr Vallas suggested that hackers were to blame.

Ms. Lightfoot is also fighting a challenge from Brandon Johnson, a Democratic district executive commissioner who has been endorsed by the Chicago Teachers Union. Mr Johnson staked a position to Ms Lightfoot’s left in policing and once suggested that he agree with the movement to cut police department funding, although he later did so traced back.

Another contender, Rep. Jesús G. García, is also fighting for progressive votes: He traces his political experiences in Chicago to the 1983 campaign to elect the city’s first black mayor, Harold Washington. Mr. García, who was born in Mexico, would be Chicago’s first Hispanic mayor. In 2015, he ran for mayor against incumbent Rahm Emanuel and won enough votes to force a runoff.

Polls suggest Willie Wilson, a businessman supported by black working-class voters, is also within striking distance of the runoff.

MitchSmith contributed reporting. Chicago elects the mayor in a race dominated by crime and policing

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