U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-4th) shakes hands with Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson (D-1st), moments after the congressman announced his endorsement of Johnson last Friday at La Villita Community Church. --Supplied photo
Choosing sides in mayoral race
SW Side endorsements start to emerge
By Tim Hadac
While neither Paul Vallas nor Brandon Johnson has campaigned on the Southwest Side to any significant degree, their supporters in this area are starting to go public.
The latest endorsement to be snagged occurred last Friday, when U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-4th), who failed on Feb. 28 to advance to the April 4 mayoral runoff election, announced his support of Johnson.
“Chicago will once again become a world-class city when Brandon Johnson is elected mayor,” García said at a press conference at La Villita Community Church (formerly the Lawndale Masonic Temple), 2300 S. Millard, in the heart of the congressman’s longtime 22nd Ward power base. “There is power and strength in unity. Chicagoans need a mayor who will serve them, regardless of where they live, who they love or what country they were born in. I’m ready to do my part to build the welcoming Chicago we deserve, with Brandon as mayor.”
Johnson was delighted and noted that as a community organizer, he worked to try and elect García mayor in 2015. He ladled praise on the congressman as a man who stands up for what’s right.
He said his alliance with García signals a resurgence of the black and Latino coalition that Mayor Harold Washington forged in the 1980s. “On April 4, black and brown are gonna get lit,” he said as his supporters cheered.
The Fourth Congressional District includes most of the Southwest Side.
To some political observers, García’s endorsement was no surprise, given the congressman’s left-wing ideological proximity to Johnson and his role as a critic of Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration in the 1990s, of which Vallas was a central figure.
On top of that, the congressman appeared to tip his hand in an op ed he wrote in the Chicago Tribune on March 14, in which his “what the next mayor must do” advice appeared to echo Johnson’s campaign talking points.
While García’s backing may very well be the “major announcement” Johnson touted it as the night before, its impact on the Southwest Side remains to be seen, given the congressman’s performance locally in the mayoral primary, as well as the absence of aldermanic runoff races that typically boost voter turnout.
Across nine Southwest Side wards, García took 27% of the vote on Feb. 28, finishing a close second behind Vallas, who finished with 28%.
But part of García’s numbers can be explained by Feb. 28 aldermanic primaries in the 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 18th, 22nd and 23rd Wards, all of which have large Latino populations.
With all Southwest Side aldermanic races decided and no Hispanic mayoral candidate on the April 4 ballot, hundreds—if not thousands—of García voters may stay home on election day.
Further, the Hispanic vote is not monolithic and does not automatically follow García. Two Southwest Side Latino aldermen: Raymond A. Lopez (15th) and Silvana Tabares (23rd) are actively supporting Vallas, as is 12th Ward Democratic Committeeman George A. Cardenas, whose handpicked aldermanic successor (Anabel Abarca) was defeated on Feb. 28 by a García-backed challenger.
Additionally, the influential Latino Leadership Council, which last fall urged García to run for mayor and backed him in the Feb. 28 mayoral primary, broke with him this week and endorsed Vallas. The move raised eyebrows among some, since García is a co-founder of the Council.
Also not monolithic
Also not monolithic or to be taken for granted is the black vote.
While most black public figures—including the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle–appear to be lining up behind Johnson, Southwest Side Alds. David H. Moore (17th) and Derrick G. Curtis (18th) last week joined a growing group of black elected officials endorsing Vallas. The jewel in that crown is former longtime Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White.
Also, several pastors from the Southwest Side were among nearly 200 black, faith-based leaders who gathered last Sunday at Providence Missionary Baptist Church, 8401 S. Ashland, to endorse Vallas and pray over him, along with businessman and former mayoral candidate Willie Wilson, who lost on Feb. 28 but quickly announced his support of Vallas.
But whether black Southwest Siders will vote in great numbers on April 4 remains to be seen—as will whether the endorsements have any impact on the large majority who voted for Wilson or Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Feb. 28.
There is also a chance that voters who backed Lightfoot, Wilson, García and other losing mayoral candidates will stay home on April 4.
That happened four years ago. In the February 2019 primary, 560,701 Chicagoans cast ballots, but just 526,886 voted in the April runoff between Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle.
Early voting underway
Election day is Tuesday, April 4, but early voting began this week in each ward, as well as at the Chicago Board of Elections’ “Supersite” (191 N. Clark) on Monday, March 20.
Early-voting hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. Polls will be open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 4.
Early-voting sites in Southwest Side wards include the McKinley Park Branch Library, 1915 W. 35th St.; Clearing Branch Library, 6423 W. 63rd Place; Archer Heights Branch Library, 5055 S. Archer; Gage Park, 2411 W. 55th St.; Lindblom Park, 6054 S. Damen; Thurgood Marshall Branch Library, 7506 S. Racine; Wrightwood-Ashburn Branch Library, 8530 S. Kedzie; Toman Branch Library, 2708 S. Pulaski; and Ward Hall, 5157 S. McVicker.
Those voting may vote at any early-voting site in the city. For a complete list of sites or to find your election day polling place, visit chicagoelections.gov.
Back in the neighborhood
One of Vallas’ earliest Southwest Side endorsements came from 23rd Ward Ald. and Democratic Committeeman Silvana Tabares. Fresh off a landslide re-election triumph on Feb. 28, she announced her backing of Vallas for mayor in the April 4 runoff election.
“Paul Vallas is the right choice for mayor because he’s the only candidate who will revitalize our police department and put more officers into our neighborhoods to make our families safer,” Tabares said. “The contrast between these two candidates could not be more clear, and Brandon Johnson’s plans to defund the police are the exact wrong approach right now for Chicago. I’m with Paul because problems need solutions, not slogans.”
Tabares’ branding of Johnson as a “defund the police” candidate will doubtless play well in the ward, heavy with law enforcement officers, their families and supporters.
Her endorsement earlier this month was made with 30th Ward Ald. Ariel Reboyras and 31st Ward Ald. Felix Cardona Jr.
“I’m incredibly thankful to Aldermen Tabares, Cardona Jr. and Reboyras for supporting our campaign,” Vallas said. “Leaders from throughout the city representing every community are rallying behind our campaign because they know that we will put crime reduction and public safety first.”
Vallas also has the support of Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch President Al Cacciottolo and Scottsdale Neighborhood Watch President Jason Huff. Both men were recently elected to the new Chicago Lawn (8th) District Police Council.
Yet to make an endorsement is 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn or his political mentor, longtime 13th Ward Democratic Committeeman Michael J. Madigan. Quinn is said be in conversations with Vallas campaign representatives.
Business backing Vallas
Earlier this week, leaders of the city’s business community endorsed Vallas. Leaders of such heavy-hitter groups as the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association, Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, Illinois Retail Merchants Association and the Chicagoland Apartment Association stepped up to the plate for Vallas and to sound a note of caution about Johnson.
“It is imperative that business and government leaders work in tandem with a balanced approach to solving complex issues related to our city’s economy, and Brandon Johnson’s extreme tax increase plan would devastate Chicago and cost countless jobs,” business leaders said in a joint statement. “Johnson’s plan, which the Chicago Tribune called ‘radical,’ would increase taxes by $800 million and hit the middle class and small businesses. He would increase taxes on hotels and motels that are still struggling to get through the pandemic, reinstate the employee head tax which charges businesses for each job they create within the city, increase taxes on real estate transactions which would stifle affordable housing development and much more.
“Meanwhile, Johnson’s plan to defund the police would make the city less safe and further damage our economy,” the statement continued. “Paul Vallas is the only candidate in this race with a real plan for economic development that will uplift communities throughout the city.”
Labor backing Vallas
Clearing resident and Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President John Catanzara, fresh off his own re-election triumph, reminded the rank and file earlier this month of the union’s support for Vallas.
“Let’s make sure we get our ballots in, and make sure we get Vallas across the line, not only for our sake, but for this city’s sake,” he said.
He added that the union has agreed to a 60-day pause in arbitration with city government, pending the outcome of the mayoral election. Saying the arbitration calendar will resume on May 1, Catanzara predicted, “If Vallas is elected, we’ll get a lot of this done…all of this done, negotiating the way we should have to begin with.”
But the Southwest Side is considerably more than the cluster of “cop neighborhoods” some think of it as. Many Southwest Siders belong to other unions that have stepped forward for Vallas.
The former Chicago Public Schools CEO has been endorsed by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 and Local 399, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134 and Local 9, Teamsters JC 25, Firefighters Local 2, Plumbers Local 130 and the Chicago Laborers’ District Council.
“We support Paul Vallas for mayor as he clearly recognizes and values the importance of the work of the 6,000-plus skilled labor force of our Plumbers Local 130 UA to the City of Chicago,” said Jim Coyne, Local 130 Business Manager. “Paul understands and supports the Plumbers License Law, and the City of Chicago Plumbing Code, which is the strictest in the nation. It is because of these Codes, that the health of the nation including the City of Chicago is protected. We know we can count on Paul to support Plumbers Local 130 as mayor.”
Vallas said, “Chicago is a union city and I’ve always had great respect for the role that organized labor plays in leveling the playing field and making sure that the investments we make in our communities are always shared by the middle class and working families. I’m thrilled to earn these endorsements today from three of our city’s leading labor organizations, and as mayor I will work hard to create more opportunities for working men and women.”
Johnson has been endorsed by the Chicago Teachers Union, of which he is a member and still reportedly draws a salary.
“Like [Mayor Harold] Washington, Johnson has ignited a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-generational working class movement — a new Rainbow Coalition — that speaks to the hopes and desires of black and brown communities that have been ignored and faced disinvestment for decades,” said CTU President Stacy Davis Gates. “With Brandon on the fifth floor of City Hall, we will finally have a mayor who envisions — and fights for — the city all Chicagoans deserve.”
He also is backed by Service Employees International Union Local 73 and other smaller labor groups.
“In 2011 Brandon joined the resurgent Chicago Teachers Union as an organizer,” SEIU officials said in a statement. “Brandon helped to organize the monumental 2012 CTU strike and fought against the onslaught of closings and privatization in Black and Latinx schools. In 2015 Brandon led field campaigns that forced an historic mayoral runoff and 18 aldermanic runoffs in the city of Chicago.”
Vallas, Johnson and García by the numbers on Feb. 28
García 2,748 (45%)
Vallas 1,703 (28%)
Johnson 872 (14%)
Total votes cast 6,078
Vallas 7,151 (55%)
García 3,394 (26%)
Johnson 789 (6%)
Total votes cast 13,061
García 2,691 (55%)
Vallas 1,093 (22%)
Johnson 464 (9%)
Total votes cast 4,896
García 1,661 (34%)
Vallas 1,259 (25%)
Johnson 548 (11%)
Total votes cast 4,956
Johnson 744 (13%)
Vallas 463 (8%)
García 448 (8%)
Total votes cast 5,723
Johnson 1,288 (15%)
Vallas 704 (8%)
García 386 (5%)
Total votes cast 8,424
Vallas 2,383 (19%)
Johnson 1,941 (16%)
García 1,390 (11%)
Total votes cast 12,232
García 2,727 (57%)
Vallas 659 (14%)
Johnson 541 (11%)
Total votes cast 4,755
Vallas 4,264 (47%)
García 3,036 (33%)
Johnson 608 (7%)
Total votes cast 9,156
Nine Southwest Side wards
Vallas 19,679 (28%)
García 18,481 (27%)
Johnson 7,795 (11%)
Total votes cast 69,281
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