Chicago mayor’s race 2023 lineup: Who is in, who is out, who is undecided

As Chicago emerges from a pandemic, copes with fallout from civil unrest and addresses crime, the race for Chicago mayor in 2023 is shaping up to be hotly contested.

The Chicago Tribune is breaking down the list of those who say they will run, those still thinking about it and those who say they won’t. We will be updating this list as candidates make up their minds. You also can follow our coverage from our team of political reporters.

Election Day for the mayor’s race is Feb. 28, 2023. If no candidate receives a majority of votes in February, a runoff election will be held on April 4, 2023.

Jump to candidates who are:

Ald. Raymond Lopez, 15th, announces his run for mayor at the Plant, in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, April 6, 2022. (E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune)

Lopez has represented the 15th Ward — which includes neighborhoods such as Back of the Yards and Brighton Park — since 2015 and has made a name for himself as being a consistent critic of Mayor Lori Lightfoot and clashed with former Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Lopez grew up on the Southwest Side and used to work as a Southwest Airlines skycap. Most of Lopez’s criticism has focused on the issue of crime, rhetoric that has occasionally got him into trouble, such as the time he said he was thankful “that no innocent lives were lost” after a mass shooting in Brighton Park. If elected, he would be the first Latino Chicago mayor and first openly gay man in the office.

Surrounded by ministers, business people and community members, millionaire businessman, Willie Wilson announces that he will run for mayor of Chicago on April 11, 2022. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)

Best known for giving away millions of dollars to help strangers pay their bills or property taxes, Wilson made headlines in 2022 for giving away more than $2 million in free gas. In the past seven years, he’s also become much more active in politics. He’s run for mayor twice before and also ran for U.S. Senate and even made a quixotic bid for president in 2016. Wilson made his millions owning Omar Medical Supplies and several McDonald’s franchises after growing up in Louisiana and working as a sharecropper. His previous mayoral bids have garnered significant support from voters in majority-Black wards.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot looks on as recruits receive their police certificates during the Chicago Police Department’s recruit class graduation and promotion ceremony at Navy Pier’s Aon Grand Ballroom on March 29, 2022. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)

Lightfoot has not yet announced she’s running for reelection, but she is widely expected to seek a second term. Originally from Ohio, Lightfoot attended the University of Chicago Law School before working as a federal prosecutor and for the firm Mayer Brown. She was tapped by then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel to head the Police Accountability Task Force following the police killing of Laquan McDonald. In her first-ever run for public office in 2019, Lightfoot ran for mayor as a political progressive and emerged from a 14-candidate field. During her first term, she has led Chicago through the COVID-19 pandemic and two rounds of civil unrest but also been criticized for not living up to her campaign promises, including pushing for an elected school board and making City Hall more transparent to the public.

Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visits students at the Chicago Vocational Career Academy in Chicago on Feb. 17, 2017. (Keri Wiginton / Chicago Tribune)

Duncan came to prominence in Chicago after being selected by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley to oversee Chicago Public Schools. He later was selected by President Barack Obama, whom he is friends with, to be the U.S. Secretary of Education. Duncan was frequently discussed as a potential challenger to Mayor Lori Lightfoot and he acknowledged his interest in running but he announced in March that he won’t run for mayor in 2023 because he wanted to focus on leading Chicago CRED, a nonprofit aimed at violence prevention. Duncan grew up in Hyde Park and played professional basketball in Australia.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley talks about the election voting equipment and the importance of being an election judge during a polling place training session at Block 37 in Chicago on Feb. 4, 2019. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)

A longtime North Side resident who has represented Illinois’ 5th Congressional District since 2009, Quigley has long been discussed as a potential mayoral candidate but he’s never run. In 2022, he spent $50,000 on a poll to gauge his chances against Mayor Lori Lightfoot and formed a local political campaign committee. In April, however, Quigley, announced he wouldn’t run. A member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence and also co-chair of the House Ukrainian Caucus, he said he wanted to focus on his work in Congress amid the war in Ukraine. He previously served as a Cook County commissioner.

State Rep. Kam Buckner speaks, Jan. 27, 2022, at St. Sabina Church with other leaders and family members of Laquan McDonald to demand federal charges against former Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke. (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)

Buckner grew up on the Far South Side and graduated from Morgan Park High School. Buckner’s mother was a teacher at Louisa May Alcott Elementary School on the North Side and his father was a corrections sergeant at the Cook County Jail. Buckner earned a football scholarship to the University of Illinois. Following college, he worked for U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin in constituent services and also as press secretary for former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. He was appointed a state representative in 2019 for a district that stretches from the Gold Coast to South Chicago, though he’s been dogged by two DUI convictions.

Paul Vallas, who ran for mayor in 2019, holds a news conference on Feb. 4, 2019, to address Fox 32’s decision to only invite five mayoral candidates to a debate. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

Vallas is a longtime Chicagoan who became well-known in government circles in the 1990s as Mayor Richard M. Daley’s budget director and then the person Daley picked to lead Chicago Public Schools after Daley was given more control over the school system. Following his work at CPS, he was also head of public school systems for New Orleans and Philadelphia. He unsuccessfully ran against Rod Blagojevich in the Democratic primary for governor in 2002 and he ran for mayor in 2019 but came in ninth. Since losing the 2019 mayor’s race, Vallas has helped the Fraternal Order of Police with labor negotiations and criticized Lightfoot’s handling of crime.

Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacy Davis Gates speaks to the press regarding safety concerns at schools outside of Barton Elementary School on Sept. 2, 2021. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

Davis Gates has been a leader with the Chicago Teachers Union since Karen Lewis became CTU president in 2010. Originally from South Bend, Indiana, Davis Gates worked at Englewood High School as a history teacher but left the classroom in 2011 to become more involved with the union. She served as CTU political director before becoming vice president and has been an outspoken critic of Mayor Lori Lightfoot. In addition to her union duties, Davis Gates is chair of United Working Families, a quasi-political party that supports progressive candidates for public office.

Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson speaks at a gathering in support of Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Potawatomi Park on Oct. 11, 2021 in Chicago. (Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)

A onetime Chicago Teachers Union organizer, Johnson has long been a CTU favorite and a rumored candidate for the office. Johnson defeated Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, who earned the ire of organized labor by voting against the county’s soda tax. On the County Board, Johnson pushed a measure making it illegal to refuse to show or rent property to people with certain criminal records and also drafted a symbolic resolution that supported diverting money from policing in the wake of nationwide protests demanding police budgets be defunded.

State Rep. La Shawn Ford during a mayoral forum at the Renee Crown Public Media Center on Feb. 19, 2019, in Chicago. (Erin Hooley / Chicago Tribune)

A real estate developer and former Chicago Public Schools teacher, Ford has represented his state House district — covering parts of Chicago’s Austin neighborhood and portions of Berwyn, Brookfield, Forest Park, La Grange, La Grange Park, North Riverside and Oak Park — since 2006. In 2014, two years after being hit with fraud charges, Ford was sentenced to six months of probation on a misdemeanor tax count as a result of a plea deal with federal prosecutors who had brought 17 felony charges against him. A federal judge said she believed his failure to pay taxes was due to sloppy bookmaking, not criminal intent. He ran for mayor in 2019 but finished 11th.

Former Chicago Commissioner of Buildings Judy Frydland on May 6, 2022. (Youngrae Kim/for the Chicago Tribune)

The daughter of Holocaust survivors, Frydland worked in Chicago’s Law Department as head of the Building and License Enforcement Division, where she was responsible for enforcing building violations. Emanuel tapped her to lead the Buildings Department in 2015, where she led an overhaul of the building code. Frydland and Lightfoot faced criticism after a botched demolition in Little Village led a dust cloud to descend on the Southwest Side neighborhood. City officials issued fines to the company and its contractors and said the fault was on them for negligence. Frydland retired in 2020.

Ald. Roderick Sawyer, 6th, speaks before the City Council votes on the controversial civilian oversight panel at City Hall on July 21, 2021. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

A former head of the City Council Black Caucus, Sawyer holds a South Side seat that his father, Eugene Sawyer, held before becoming mayor after Harold Washington died. Sawyer’s a known pragmatist. He backed former Mayor Rahm Emanuel on many initiatives, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot tapped Sawyer to lead the Committee on Health and Human Relations and to be on her leadership team. Still, Sawyer and Lightfoot have at times had a fractious relationship as he has occasionally criticized her leadership style. He has had some political challenges, however, including being forced into a runoff by a little-known challenger in the 2019 race.

Ald. Brian Hopkins, 2nd, at Chicago City Hall on April 10, 2019. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)

Before becoming 2nd Ward alderman in 2015, Brian Hopkins served as chief of staff to Cook County Commissioner John Daley and is the former director of the Illinois Coalition to End Homelessness. As alderman, he has been an outspoken critic of the scrap metal General Iron plant in Lincoln Park and a staunch supporter of the Lincoln Yards megadevelopment that generated controversy after former Mayor Rahm Emanuel promised billions of dollars in tax subsidies for the project. Hopkins, who represents parts of downtown, has criticized Mayor Lori Lightfoot for trying to take power from aldermen and not doing enough to prepare for civil unrest.

FOP President John Catanzara after a hearing in Cook County Circuit Court on an FOP motion to halt implementation of Mayor Lightfoot’s vaccine mandate at the Daley Center on Oct. 28, 2021. (E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune)

Elected to lead Chicago’s FOP in 2020, Catanzara is no longer a member a Chicago cop after quitting the department in 2021 to avoid being fired over allegations he made numerous inflammatory statements on social media. During his time working for the Chicago Police Department, he amassed at least 35 complaints, many for personnel violations, has been suspended several times and twice been the subject of firing by police superintendents. Catanzara spent much of the past year unsuccessfully fighting with Mayor Lori Lightfoot over the city’s vaccine mandate, which he compared with the Holocaust.

Activist Ja’Mal Green speak during a news conference held in response to violence clashes between police officers and protesters in downtown Chicago Saturday night on August 16, 2020, outside the 2nd District Chicago Police station. (Erin Hooley / Chicago Tribune)

Green came to prominence in recent years as a Black Lives Matter protester and as an outspoken critic of police violence. He also has launched a nonprofit to help people buy homes. In 2019, Green ran for mayor but failed to get on the ballot after business owner Willie Wilson’s campaign challenged his signatures, sparking what at times became a heated war of words.

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May 9, 2022 at 05:10AM

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