Chicago has elected a new mayor, Brandon Johnson, who will succeed Lori Lightfoot, the first black woman and openly gay person to hold the post. Johnson, a former teacher and union organiser, won the race with the backing of the city’s heavily Democratic electorate and support from high-profile progressive senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The victory marks a significant win for the city’s teachers’ union, as Johnson is now the highest-ranking office held by any active teachers union member in recent history.
Johnson’s campaign focused on policies such as raising $800m by taxing “ultra-rich” individuals and businesses, investing in mental health treatment, affordable housing for all, and jobs for young people. He argued that rather than investing in policing and incarceration, the city should prioritize addressing mental health care, housing, and youth employment. Johnson’s platform also included proposals to tax hotel room stays and impose a “head tax” on employers.
The mayoral election drew attention from progressive groups, such as Our Revolution, who are seeking to win more offices in local and state office. Johnson’s win is seen as a test of organizing power and messaging for both progressive and moderate Democrats. His opponent in the race, former Chicago schools CEO Paul Vallas, called on his supporters to support Johnson in the “daunting work ahead.”
During his victory speech, Johnson promised to usher in “a new chapter in the history of our city” and pledged to ensure that his administration would look out for everyone, regardless of how much money they have, whom they love, or where they come from. He referenced civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and the Rev. Jesse Jackson and called his victory a continuation of their legacies.
However, some members of the city council and state legislature have already expressed their opposition to Johnson’s proposals, including the tax on “ultra-rich” individuals and businesses. The mayoral election was heavily focused on the city’s high crime rate and financial challenges, with Vallas advocating for hiring more police officers while Johnson argued for a focus on mental health treatment and affordable housing.
Johnson’s victory represents a significant shift towards progressive policies and a departure from the traditional Democratic approach to governing. It remains to be seen how Johnson’s proposals will be received by the city council and state legislature, but his election marks a significant moment in Chicago’s political history.