The people of Chicago have spoken: They have elected Brandon Johnson to be the city’s next mayor.
The Cook County Commissioner for Chicago’s 1st District defeated his opponent, former Bridgeport Public Schools Superintendent and Chicago Schools CEO Paul Vallas, by a margin of 51.42% to 48.58% as of this writing. The Associated Press, NBC News, and other outlets officially called the race on Tuesday night, with 99% of precincts reporting.
The significance of Johnson’s victory, especially to Black Chicagoans, cannot be overstated.
At 47, Johnson is set to become the third Black mayor in the city’s history, directly succeeding our first African-American woman and LGBTQ+ mayor, Lori Lightfoot.
Johnson’s victory comes after a bruising campaign, during which Vallas and his backers echoed disingenuous right-wing attacks on his police reform plans.
Right-wing groups poured millions of dollars into Vallas’s campaign to defeat Johnson. Plus, a number of pundits projected that concerns over rising crime in the city would help propel Vallas to a victory in Tuesday night’s run-off election.
But the former public school teacher proved adversaries and those cynical predictions wrong by pulling off a stunning upset.
How did he do it?
Unlike his opponent, Johnson was unafraid to discuss and address that racism and racial disparities still exist in our nation and communities. But, instead of waving off these concerns – and their direct impact on Black Chicagoans – as “divisive,” Johnson took those concerns on directly.
He ran and won on a campaign platform that included plans for affordable housing, police reform and protecting and enhancing the civil rights of Chicagoans, including the Black community.
He also ran a campaign that hinged on the tenets of hope over the spreading of fear.
Despite being outspent by a roughly 2-1 margin, Johnson, who has a background in union organizing, utilized those skills to enhance his campaign and deliver a diverse coalition to the polls, which included many Black Chicago voters.
Having observed Johnson on the campaign trail, I am not surprised that he pulled off this historic win.
Meeting the new Mayor-Elect, I could tell he possessed the determination and drive to beat the pollsters’ odds and ultimately win the race.
Having come from an organizing background, I know firsthand the power of the personal narrative and how sharing your story with the people you aim to organize can make a significant difference in achieving that goal.
And Johnson has a truly inspiring story. The son of a pastor and one of ten children, he has operated on his motto of “hard work, faith, and service,” guiding his career as a public school educator, organizer and elected community leader.
He will continue to embody and exemplify these values as our next mayor.
And as a Black Chicagoan, I am frankly relieved that my mayor will not condone the whitewashing of our nation’s history in our schools, the ones my future children will be attending.
I am profoundly grateful that our next mayor understands the challenges Black Chicago families face, whether they be socioeconomic or involve their safety. Furthermore, he has plans to take these issues on directly.
But I am most satisfied to see that Chicagoans – Black Chicagoans in particular – came out to the polls in significant numbers for this run-off.
We did that on Tuesday night. I hope this trend will continue, not only into the next election cycle but in the one to follow and the one after that, and so on.
For our democracy to survive and thrive, we must all use our voices. And our voice is our vote.
Let’s keep using it to effect change in our communities and our nation.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: We look forward to speaking with the Mayor-Elect about his plans for Chicago in the new term. Watch this space for more on this in the coming days!
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April 5, 2023 at 02:03AM