Lightfoot campaign makes issue of Paul Vallas’ GOP ties – Crain’s Chicago Business

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“That doesn’t sound like Chicago to us,” says the email, asking for a donation. “We can’t go backwards.”

The basic facts of the email are true. But many of the donors also have contributed to Democrats. And Lightfoot herself has received money from GOP donors—though not, her campaign says, anyone who gave money to Trump.

At issue is the $886,000 Vallas reported raising in the quarter ended June 30, a sizable figure that perhaps signals that he will have an easier time drawing campaign cash than in his race for mayor four years ago.

More than half of that, $500,000, came from golfing exec Mike Keiser, who has donated $11,200 to Trump; $60,000 to failed GOP gubernatorial hopeful Richard Irvin; and $25,000 to the successful effort two years ago to block Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax amendment.

Another $100,000 came from Madison Dearborn Chairman John Canning, who has donated to McConnell. And $50,000 came from Trump and Cruz donor Noel Moore, a top Chicago trader.

But Keiser also has given to former mayoral candidates Gery Chico and Bill Daley, both Democrats. State campaign records also indicate he was a major donor to groups seeking to have state legislative reapportionment turned over to an independent group, a cause also backed by many progressives.

Among those who have received campaign cash from Canning is Lightfoot; $10,000 when she first ran for mayor four years ago.

Lightfoot four years ago also received $100,000 from industrialist Craig Duchossois, one of the top GOP donors in the state, whose family owned the Arlington International Racecourse that may be the new home of the Chicago Bears.

One of the things Vallas’ major donors so far have in common is that all of them have been heavily involved in public school reform issues, including charter schools, through groups such as One Chance Illinois and Stand for Children.

That tracks chatter among political insiders that Vallas will receive major campaign funding from school-change groups at a time when how Chicago implements a new elected board of education is likely to become a major issue in the mayoral campaign.

A campaign spokeswoman for Lightfoot said Vallas’ GOP ties are a legitimate issue because nearly four dollars in five that he’s received have come from people with a history of backing Republicans. While Lightfoot has received some donations herself from such sources, “No one in Chicago is going to think she’s a Republican and not a Democrat.”

A Vallas spokesman noted that, as a private attorney, Lightfoot once represented Illinois Republicans in a lawsuit intended to create more congressional districts in which the GOP could win.

“Rather than hypocritically attacking, Lori should address her dismal record as mayor including rising crime, failing schools and runaway taxes,” said the spokesman.

Chicago’s mayoral election is technically nonpartisan, but the city heavily supports Democrats in most elections.

UPDATE: Vallas is flatly denying he voted Republican, despite Board of Elections records circulating on the internet that appear to indicate he did. And the board agrees.

What happened, according to his campaign, is that his last state driver’s license had one wrong digit in his home address. The state subsequently issued a new one—Vallas provided a picture—but already had automatically passed the wrong data on to the Chicago Board of Elections. Vallas says the board told him to correct the error at his polling place on election day, but the change has not yet been incorporated into the board’s database.

Meantime, the board now says, it responded to a Freedom of Information request for Vallas’ voting record. Based on the incorrect address, it said he cast a Republican ballot. In fact, Vallas “did pull a Democratic ballot for the June 28, 2022 primary election.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story said that Vallas voted in the Republican primary; Vallas’ camp disputes it.

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August 2, 2022 at 09:30PM

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