Illinois Insights Special Edition: 2023 Municipal Runoff Election Results (4/5)
April 5, 2023
April 5, 2023
Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, a longtime organizer for the Chicago Teachers Union, has defeated former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas to become Chicago’s 57th mayor.
With 99.6% of precincts reporting, Johnson has 51.42% of the vote to 48.58% for Vallas — a margin of 15,872 votes out of 557,422 cast. The Associated Press called the race for Johnson at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday night and Vallas conceded at 9:45 p.m., taking to the podium at the Hyatt Regency Chicago to tell his supporters that he had called Johnson to offer his support to the mayor-elect. In his concession speech, Vallas added “it’s clear based on the results tonight that the city is deeply divided.”
Although some 90,000 mail-in ballots still need to be returned and counted, Johnson had an edge in late arriving mail ballots in the first round so those additional votes are expected to add to Johnson’s lead, with several analysts predicting he could win up to 70% of the uncounted mail votes. Vallas said that while the votes are still being counted and everyone is important, he expects Johnson to prevail.
The five-week runoff battle centered on issues of crime and public safety. Vallas, who was endorsed by the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, pushed a tough-on-crime agenda and vowed to add hundreds more police officers to the ranks while Johnson’s more progressive approach focused on equity and addressing the root causes of crime, such as expanding mental health services.
Despite his initial lack of name recognition and controversial tape defending the “defund the police movement,” Johnson was able to expand his base of white progressive voters on the North Side’s lakefront and carried many majority Black wards on the South and West Sides. He also won Latino areas in Little Village and Pilsen.
Brandon Johnson, who was backed by the Chicago Teachers Union and other labor groups, said “Chicago is a union town” in his victory speech Tuesday. “Now Chicago will begin to work for its people, all the people.”
Johnson’s mayoral victory signals a shift to the left from the already progressive governance of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration. Johnson’s platform includes new taxes he says will mostly affect wealthier people. His proposed initiatives include a higher real estate transfer tax on properties worth more than $1 million, a head tax on Chicago employers, a levy on financial transactions, and a jet fuel tax. He has also pitched raising the hotel tax, although some of these changes would require a change of state law. He has vowed not to increase property taxes.
The mayoral inauguration per state law is set for Monday, May 15. The first substantive City Council meeting will likely take place Wednesday, May 17.
Assuming 29th Ward Ald. Taliaferro maintains his lead over challenger CB Johnson, only one incumbent will have lost their race this election cycle – 12th Ward Ald. Anabel Abarca, who had just been appointed to the seat by Mayor Lori Lightfoot in December.
The city’s progressive movement secured wins in aldermanic races both last night and in the Feb. 28 election to advance their numbers. Last night’s results helped push the Chicago City Council’s Progressive Reform Caucus to a new total of 23 members, assuming Ald. Taliaferro holds on to his lead. These members, along with other City Council members like 3rd Ward Ald. Pat Dowell, who endorsed Johnson and is expected to support the Johnson administration on key votes, will help give Mayor-elect Johnson a functioning progressive majority on the Council.
Progressive members are anticipated to increase from 18 to 23. Member additions include Alds. Lamont Robinson (4), Desmon Yancy (5), William Hall (6), Julia Ramirez (12), Jeylu Gutierrez (14), Jessica Fuentes (26), Ruth Cruz (30), Angela Clay (46), and Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth (48). Although the 4th, 5th, and 6th Wards elected new aldermen, the seats are still occupied by progressive members.
In the 10th Ward, the progressives lost Ald. Sue Garza, a former chair of the Chicago City Council Progressive Reform Caucus, to retirement, and incoming Ald. Peter Chico is not expected to join the progressive caucus. The caucus, however, picked up the 12th, 14th, and 26th wards on Feb. 28 as well as the 30th, 46th, and 48th last night.
The city’s Democratic Socialist (DSA) City Council Caucus, making up the Council’s most left-leaning flank, picked up one seat in the 46th ward with Ald. Angela Clay to increase their membership from six to seven. Returning members include Alds. Daniel La Spata (1), Jeanette Taylor (20), Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25), Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35), and Andre Vasquez (40). Note: Although Ald. Vasquez (40) is not a member of the DSA caucus, he identifies as a DSA member. All DSA-affiliated members strongly supported Mayor-elect Johnson.
This year’s election marks a historic year of aldermanic turnover: sixteen of the aldermen elected four years ago did not run due to retirements, runs for other office, or removals due to indictment, a much larger number than the five incumbents who did not run for reelection in 2019 and 2015. The sixteen aldermen elected in 2019 that are not returning to their seats on the City Council this cycle is significantly greater than the twelve in 2019 and thirteen in 2015.
An overview of the fourteen aldermanic runoff races is below, although vote totals and results are subject to change as mail-in ballots are counted.
On March 30, the City Council held a special meeting and passed legislation that changes the operations of the council and promotes their independence from the mayor’s office. The new rules and committee chair assignments increase the number of City Council committees from 19 to 28 and restrict direct introductions of ordinances. The new council will have to reaffirm the rules and committee chairmanships in May, although no member who was assigned a committee chair position has lost re-election pending the outcome of the 29th Ward race.
Voter turnout as of 7:00 pm on Tuesday rose one percent from February’s general election, with a 35.2 percent voter turnout, or 558,547 ballots cast, compared to the 32.1 percent turnout (507,852 ballots cast) on Feb. 28, according to the Chicago Board of Elections. Total turnout for Tuesday will continue to rise as more mail-in ballots are counted.
Although older Chicagoans cast a majority of the ballots, the young vote, a core base for Johnson, increased by an impressive 32 percent for voters aged 18- to 24-years-old. Voter turnout for voters aged 25- to 34-years-old increased by 24 percent.
Although Paul Vallas’s strongholds on the far Northwest and Southwest sides produced the highest voter turnout, a surge of voting along lakefront and North side progressive wards gave needed support to Brandon Johnson. Johnson also gained voters from Feb. 28 in several South and West side wards.
The 19th Ward led in voter turnout, with 55 percent of registered voters hitting the poles, while the 11th, 13th, 41st, 43rd, 44th, 45th, 46th, 47th, and 48th Wards all saw turnouts greater than 40 percent. The 16th Ward’s 16 percent turnout was significantly lower than the rest of the city.
Early voting numbers increased from the previous two election cycles – as of Monday night, a total 292,591 ballots had been cast compared to 164,708 in 2019 and 161,869 in 2015 at the same time in the election cycle, according to the Chicago Board of Elections – although it’s important to note that more people are registered to vote this year than the last two elections. The city also set a municipal record Monday with over 30,000 early votes cast in a single day.
The Chicago Board of Elections said all Vote By Mail ballots received on Election Day will be processed and counted starting April 5 and the board has until April 18 to count ballots that met the postmark deadline. However, the mail-in ballots will not change the outcome of the mayoral election.
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