Some elbows fly in first mayoral debate
Happy Thursday, Illinois. Three years ago on this day, Illinois declared a statewide health emergency due to Covid-19. What a time.
It was a master class in debate strategy last night as Chicago mayoral candidates Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson faced off during their first forum leading up to the April 4 runoff election.
Policy vs. politics: Vallas, a frontrunner in polling and fundraising, tried keeping his focus on the questions posed by NBC 5 political reporter Mary Ann Ahern and ignored the needling from Johnson who turned each of his answers into a political attack.
Trying to win moderates: Vallas and Johnson sit at the right and left of their party, so a face-to-face debate is a good place to win over voters who aren’t sure how they’ll vote. Johnson did his best to paint Vallas as a conservative, but Vallas took a swing by blaming Johnson for schools being closed during the pandemic.
Vallas’ goal was to stay above the fray, though he did push back some. He criticized Johnson for supporting school closings during the pandemic. And Vallas refuted claims that he opposes teaching Black history in schools.
Johnson, meanwhile, hammered at Vallas’ past remarks that he’s a Republican (Vallas says he spoke hypothetically.), Vallas’ record on schools and whether he’ll raise property taxes. Johnson also threw out Ken Griffin’s name, criticizing Vallas for getting the Citadel CEO’s endorsement. Earlier in the day, Griffin told Bloomberg, “I hope that Paul Vallas becomes the mayor of Chicago. I think he’s the best choice for the city.” Video at about 20:20.
Public safety was central to the debate as it was in the weeks leading up to last week’s election. Vallas talked about hiring more officers and reshuffling leaders on the force. And Johnson sidestepped a question about his previous comments supporting the “defund” police movement.
INVEST SOUTH/WEST: Asked whether they would continue Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s signature community development program, both said yes.
PRE-DEBATE HEAD-TURNER: The Chicago Teachers Union is raising members’ dues $8 per month to go toward its political action committee paying for Johnson’s mayoral campaign. CTU’s executive board announced the hike here.
THEIR UNION LABELS: Johnson said he would resign from the Chicago Teachers Union if he’s elected mayor. And Vallas said he hasn’t taken financial contributions from the Fraternal Order of Police, so he wouldn’t be beholden to them, either.
ENDORSING: Watch for Reps. Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) Jim Clyburn of South Carolina to endorse Johnson. Willie Wilson endorsed Vallas, and SEIU backed Johnson, via CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot. And the Sierra Club Illinois Chapter PAC is endorsing Johnson, too.
NOT ENDORSING: Biden faces a mayoral race pickle: “Most Democrats look at the two choices and in an extreme sense they are choices between a Republican and a socialist,” said Pete Giangreco, a Democratic strategist and veteran of Illinois politics. ”There’s not a Joe Biden mainstream Democrat running for mayor of Chicago,” a POLITICO home page story by POLITICO’s Christopher Cadelago and your Playbook host.
NEW AD: Former President Bill Clinton is featured in a new ad for Paul Vallas.
ANOTHER DEBATE: On March 30, Johnson and Vallas will take the stage in a forum sponsored by University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, WBEZ and the Sun-Times. Details here. Details here
From the Sun-Times: Johnson casts Vallas as ally of ‘right-wing extremists’ — but Vallas dubs attacks ‘nonsense, again,’ by Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman
From the Tribune: In first debate Johnson attacked Vallas, who largely avoided attacking in kind, by Alice Yin, Gregory Pratt and A.D. Quig
SCOOP: In a strategic move to make the Chicago City Council independent of the mayor’s office, veteran aldermen are already organizing to create their own committee structure for the next administration — a task that for decades has been determined by the mayor.
Bull by the horns: Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) and Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) are among a group of aldermen drafting a plan to create committees for the next City Council, including assigning committee chairs.
Why this is big: For decades, newly elected mayors have called the shots on who chairs each committee as well as the members who sit on the them. Aldermen who were allied with the mayor, often got prime assignments.
Up until now: Mayors Lori Lightfoot, Rahm Emanuel and both Daleys rewarded loyalty with prime committee seats. The goal was to put key aldermen in positions to help push forward the mayors’ agenda items.
There’s a reason, for example, that former Mayor Richard M. Daley saw near 100 percent support from his council. He played king in doling out assignments and council members responded in kind.
Timing was everything: Committee assignments were made days after inauguration day, a time when many aldermen were still trying to get their bearings. So, there was no time to argue about who should be in charge of which committee. Aldermen just went along with the assignments.
That’s about to change: The aldermen are organizing ahead of the runoff election to put committees in place. “This change will show the council can do its own work from day one,” Waguespack said.
“We want to make it a more independent council. So, we’re changing the rules. We’re proposing a committee structure that has a more broad and equitable coalition,” Waguespack said.
The council must approve rules to move ahead with the new process. Watch for a vote to come up next week or in the April City Council meeting. And if they can’t get it passed then, they’ll wait until the new council is on board in May.
A few new committees could also be created, something that both mayoral candidates Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson have talked about.
“We’re trying to respond to years and years of independent voices wanting to make the council stronger,” Waguespack said, referring to the League of Women Voters and others. “It will give voice to people throughout the city that they haven’t quite had before.”
If you are Jim Clyburn, Playbook would like to know if you’ll be in town campaigning. Email [email protected].
No official public events.
At the St. Rita of Cascia Shrine Chapel at 9 a.m. to attend the funeral mass for Chicago Police Department Officer Andrés Mauricio Vásquez-Lasso.
Online at 10 a.m. for Cook County’s Commission on Women’s Issues for the Peggy A. Montes Unsung Heroine Awards. RSVP to join the event.
Have a news tip, suggestion, birthday, anniversary, new job, or any other nugget for Playbook? I’d like to hear from you: [email protected]
— California to halt $54M Walgreens contract over company’s policy on abortion drug sales: “Gov. Gavin Newsom is blocking the funding after the drug store chain said it would no longer dispense abortion drugs in some states,” by POLITICO’s Alice Miranda Ollstein and Jeremy B. White.
— Battle of the billionaires: Citadel CEO Ken Griffin was asked by Bloomberg, if he is willing to spend whatever it takes to get Ron DeSantis in the White House. It was a reference to Gov. JB Pritzker recently saying he will spend whatever it takes to keep DeSantis out of the White House. The audience giggled at the Bloomberg question, and Griffin smiled. “I would spend whatever it takes to make sure JB Pritzker is never in the White House.”
— Bid to block Illinois’ new assault weapons ban now before federal appeals court: “The case of Naperville gunshop owner Robert Bevis appears to be the first to challenge the ban in the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A federal judge found it constitutional,” by Sun-Times’ Jon Seidel and Tina Sfondeles.
— INVESTIGATION: Few hospitals are willing to bear the cost of providing psychiatric care for kids: “Only about 30 statewide have beds for kids who need inpatient mental health care. “No matter what the investment is, we need to make it,” says one doctor,” by WBEZ’s Kristen Schorsch and Sarah Karp.
— Springfield will be primary home for state’s new behavioral health education center, by State Journal-Register’s Zach Roth
— Powering up: Illinois-based Invenergy Transmission got the go-ahead Wednesday for the Grain Belt Express electricity transmission line to be built. The 520-mile long project will carry wind- and solar-generated energy to millions of homes in Illinois and address concerns about the power grid’s durability, according to the company. The transmission line also runs through Missouri.
— Springfield police file battery report following Tuesday’s city council meeting: “Ward 3 Ald. Roy Williams Jr. told The State Journal-Register that an altercation involved Ward 2 Ald. Shawn Gregory and James Johnson of Springfield, who had earlier addressed the council,” by State Journal-Register’s Steven Spearie.
— Legislation aims to deter book bans at public libraries by withholding grants, by Tribune’s Jeremy Gorner
— Bill before lawmakers aims to define, protect against ‘doxing,’ by Capitol News’ Nika Schoonover
— Understanding what happened in the mayor’s race: “Two unions stand above the rest in the Windy City — the police and the teachers. Lightfoot managed to lose the confidence of both, creating a huge opportunity for her competitors. Paul Vallas, who finished first with 34 percent of the vote, was backed by the police, while Brandon Johnson, who came in second with 20 percent, got the endorsement of the teachers,” writes the Brookings Institution’s William Galston.
— 30th Ward: Congresswoman Delia Ramirez and state Sen. Cristina Pacione-Zayas have endorsed Ruth Cruz for alderwoman in the runoff against Jessica Gutierrez.
We asked what summer event you try not to miss.
— Jessica Catlin: Lollapalooza.
— James Castro: Bastille Day.
— Leo Driscoll: “Music in the Park once a week in the evening.”
— Kaye Grabbe: Jazz and the Blues festivals in Grant Park.
— Ashvin Lad: Chicago Blues Festival.
— Ed Mazur: The Lyric Opera night at Millennium Park.
If you were put in command of global warming, what would you do (one sentence, please)? Email [email protected]
— Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin met with Pedro Martinez, CEO of Chicago Public Schools to talk about “trauma and providing supportive school-based services through the Chicago HEAL Initiative,” according to Durbin’s office. Also on the agenda: grants through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act that allocate $3 million to CPS for the hiring of school-based mental health professionals.
— Rep. Robin Kelly (IL-02) will serve as a co-chair of the bipartisan Maternity Care Caucus.
— Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell hospitalized after a fall, by POLITICO’s David Cohen
— A startling document predicted Jan. 6. Democrats are missing its other warnings, by POLITICO’s Alexander Burns
— The latest sign the White House Covid operations are winding down? Its proposed budget, by POLITICO’s Adam Cancryn
— Biden’s nominee for IRS commissioner teed up for confirmation by Senate, by POLITICO’s Benjamin Guggenheim
— Monday at noon: City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin leads a panel featuring Ariel Capital Management co-CEO Mellody Hobson and Midway Broadcasting Chair Melody Spann-Cooper to talk about building and preserving wealth. Streaming on Facebook
— March 16: Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr., the cousin of Emmett Till, discusses his new book, “A Few Days Full of Trouble,” with co-author Christopher Benson. Details here
WEDNESDAY’s ANSWER: Congrats to Graham Grady for correctly naming Chicago’s “acting mayors” over the years were Lester Legrand Bond, Frank Corr and Eugene Sawyer. And Michael Bilandic was acting before he was elected.
TODAY’s QUESTION: Who was the Illinois poet who also served as Clarence Darrow’s law partner? Email [email protected]
Former U.S. Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman, philanthropist Sandra Guthman, political analyst Andrew Ellison and journalist Bruce Dold.
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March 9, 2023 at 07:19AM