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Finish line in sight

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With mayoral race close, turnout is everything

By Tim Hadac

With polls predicting an extremely close mayoral runoff on Tuesday, April 4, both Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson had their campaigns in high gear this week, rolling out final endorsements and exhorting voters to cast ballots.

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Captions: Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson (D-1st) is all smiles as he is surrounded by supporters in Brighton Park last week. Johnson has pledged to rebuild the “black-brown” coalition forged by Mayor Harold Washington in the 1980s. –Supplied photo

For the first time in his campaign, Johnson beat the bushes on the Southwest Side, making a couple of stops last week in the north end of Brighton Park.

Vallas also hit the area, speaking to nearly 300 supporters at Red Barrel Restaurant just west of Brighton Park, in Archer Heights.

Several polls showed both candidates within about two percentage points of each other, with about 10% still claiming to be undecided.

“It’s going to come down to who does a better job of getting people to vote,” said Chicago Lawn resident Maurice “Mo” Williams, a longtime political observer and onetime aldermanic candidate. “I know Johnson has his base fired up, but I have not seen that same kind of fervor among Vallas supporters.”

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Paul Vallas stands with supporters 23rd Ward Ald. Silvana Tabares (red blazer) and Carlos, Socorro and Luis Vasquez, owners of Red Barrel Restaurant in Archer Heights. –Supplied photo

That’s a concern, agreed Garfield Ridge resident Al Cacciottolo, a longtime neighborhood crime fighter and political activist.

“Turnout is always extremely important,” he said. “It can be the difference between victory and defeat. But to get turnout, you have to get people fired up to make sure they get out and vote. Hopefully, people in Clearing and Garfield Ridge—like people across this city—are so fed up with crime, so fed up with being taxed out of their homes, that they get out and vote, if not now via early voting, then on Election Day.”

Final endorsements

Earlier this week, the Greater Southwest News-Herald learned that 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn will break his silence and signal his support of Vallas, while at the same time announcing that Vallas has pledged to create a new police district in the Midway area—out of the existing Chicago Lawn (8th) District.

A new district has been a major goal of Quinn, whose precinct captains have gathered 6,000 signatures to show support.

Quinn going all-in for Vallas could mean a significantly higher turnout in the ward—and presumably, at least several hundred additional votes, if not more, in a race where every vote should count.

As of Monday, Vallas had not yet announced the endorsement, leaving some to speculate that he may not. With Quinn’s political mentor, former longtime Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, under federal indictment on corruption charges, it’s possible Johnson could use the endorsement against Vallas—in the same way that in the 2019 mayoral runoff, candidate Lori Lightfoot used indicted 14th Ward Ald. Edward M. Burke against her opponent, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Another Southwest Side alderman voicing support for Vallas was Derrick G. Curtis (18th).

Saying he was on a phone call with a constituent wondering why the alderman had not endorsed Johnson, Curtis recalled responding, “Listen, with all the crime we have going on all across this city—if we defund the police—who you gonna call, the Ghostbusters?

“And after you get this $800 million tax increase that Brandon Johnson is proposing,” Curtis continued, “the first person you’re going to call is me. You’ll blame me.”

Curtis added that he doesn’t want “this [mayoral campaign] to be a racial fight, because it’s not. It’s about who’s the best person for the job. Paul has the vision and the experience to move Chicago forward.”

Ald. David Moore (17th) did talk about race. He said one reason he supports Vallas is the former Chicago Public Schools CEO has proven over the years—in word and deed—that he is committed to racial fairness in hiring, housing and economic development.

Another Southwest Side politician taking sides with Vallas was State Rep. Angelica “Angie” Guerrero-Cuellar (D-22nd).

“The families I represent in Springfield are worried,” she said. “They want a mayor who will guarantee that their kids have a great education in a great school and feel safe in their own neighborhoods. When he led CPS, Paul Vallas built new schools, kept them open on nights and weekends, and test scores went up. As mayor, he will make our safety his top priority.”

Election day is Tuesday, April 4, but early voting is well underway in each ward, as well as at the Chicago Board of Elections’ “Supersite” (191 N. Clark).

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.

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