Home » Chicago mayor’s race shows impact of crime in COVID’s wake

Chicago mayor’s race shows impact of crime in COVID’s wake

by The Grio

CHICAGO (AP) — Four years ago, Paul Vallas finished toward the bottom of the pack in a crowded race for Chicago mayor. Trying again, focused this time on crime, he was the top vote getter Tuesday, toppling the incumbent mayor and advancing to an April runoff to lead one of the country’s largest cities.

His new campaign message, concentrated on citizens’ safety and support for the police, resonated with voters in this Democratic city in a way it might not have before the COVID-19 pandemic, when rates of violent crime spiked.

“Public safety is the fundamental right of every American. It is a civil right,” Vallas told a cheering crowd at his victory party. “We will have a safe Chicago. We will make Chicago the safest city in America.”

That would be a tall order. But Vallas, a moderate Democrat endorsed by the police union, is promising what many voters want to hear, including plans to hire hundreds more police.

Those voters will have a choice. In the April runoff, Vallas will face Brandon Johnson, a progressive who is backed by the Chicago Teachers Union and says more money for police and incarceration isn’t the answer to making the streets safer.

Both of them finished ahead of Mayor Lori Lightfoot — 34% for Vallas, 20% for Johnson and 17% for Lightfoot, who was criticized for her response to the increased crime and will depart as the first one-term mayor in Chicago in 40 years.

The city’s election is the latest example of a churn in urban politics in the pandemic’s aftermath. Crime was a top concern for voters in races to lead both New York and Los Angeles, and in San Francisco, a district attorney was recalled after frustration about public safety. Perceptions that Democrats were soft on crime also might have hurt the party during the November midterms in House races in places like New York, where Republicans scored surprisingly strong wins in suburban districts.

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