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The 2023 Chicago mayoral election: Who’s in and who’s out?

CHICAGO — Crime, taxes, education and public safety are just a few of the issues Chicagoans need their next mayor to address. The city is emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, which defined current Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s tenure, and the next mayor will be waking into the aftermath.

WGN is compiling a list of candidates who are officially in the run for office, as well as big names who say they are not in the race. We will update this list as candidates make their final decisions.

The 2023 Chicago mayoral election will be held on Feb. 28, 2023. If no candidate receives a majority of votes, a runoff election will be held on April 4, 2023. 

You can follow the latest developments by following WGN political reporter Tahman Bradley and political analyst Paul Lisnek on Twitter.

Incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Chicago’s 56th mayor, made history as the city’s first openly gay Black female mayor. She took office after beating Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and winning 74% of the vote and a majority in every ward.

The re-election campaign will test Lightfoot’s discipline. She’s become known for her confrontational style and occasion off-message gaffe.

The mayor, a former federal prosecutor, has faced harsh criticism during three grueling years that saw the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest, a surge of violence and financial anxieties.

VISIT LIGHTFOOT’S CAMPAIGN WEBSITE

Ald. Sophia King (4th Ward)

The former teacher announced her bid for mayor on Aug. 10. She’s vowing to make Chicago “safer and stronger.” She’s been the 4th Ward alderperson since 2016. She is a member and chair of the City Council’s Reform Caucus.

King entering the race means that Lightfoot will no longer be the sole woman on the ballot.

Community Activist Ja’Mal Green

The youngest Chicagoan vying to be mayor of the city announced his run on June 14. The 27-year-old community activist has been vocal the city’s gun violence.

His campaign website said tackling the root causes of safety concerns is the key to helping curb crime — not overworking the police department.

VISIT GREEN’S CAMPAIGN WEBSITE

Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward)

The son of former Mayor Eugene Swayer announced his run on June 2. Sawyer has served as the 6th Ward alderperson for 11 years.

He has criticized the mayor and said she “doesn’t play well in the sandbox” with others and is not the right fit.

Lightfoot picked Sawyer to serve at the chair of City Council’s Committee on Health and Human Relations. He was also a chair on the council’s Black caucus.

Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas

The former Chicago Public Schools CEO entered the race on June 1, saying he can’t stand to see the city the way it is now.

Vallas has been critical of Lightfoot’s handling of crime and policing in the city. He said if he’s elected, he will make sure officers will be able to do their job and arrest law breakers.

“Chicago is burning,” he said. “When the people in power are too incompetent, combative or corrupt to tackle these challenges that how a great city can fall.”

Vallas ran for mayor in 2019, getting about 5% of the vote. He also ran for governor in 2002, losing in the Democratic primary.

He was the CEO of CPS from 1995 through 2001, and was former Mayor Richard Daley’s budget director before that.

VISIT VALLAS’ CAMPAIGN WEBSITE

Chicago Police Officer Fredrick Collins

The 30-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department has vowed to put a stop to the city’s violent crime sprees. His campaign website says he plans to enforce curfews and bring back “stop and frisk” laws.

Collins said one of the first things he will do to help public safety is to choose a new police superintendent. He also wants to remove the “do not chase” policy he says makes it harder for officers to protect Chicago citizens.

VISIT COLLINS’ CAMPAIGN WEBSITE

State Rep. Kam Buckner (26th District)

On May 12, the state representative and former University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign linebacker, announced his candidacy.

Buckner says he has seen a poisonous path of division within the city and expressed the mayor’s job is to fight.

He has been serving in the 26th House District, which runs from the Gold Coast to the Southeast Side.

Buckner says if he’s elected mayor, he’ll focus on crime and education as he comes from a family of teachers and principals. 

VISIT BUCKNER’S CAMPAIGN WEBSITE

Businessman Willie Wilson

Millionaire Willie Wilson announced his mayoral run on April 11. This will be his third run for mayor of the city.

Flexing his financial muscles, Wilson at the time of announcing his bid said he was writing his campaign a check for $5 million. He also pledged that if he wins, he’ll donate his mayoral salary, saying he doesn’t need the money. 

The businessman has hosted gas giveaways throughout the city, which some have said is a way to gain votes. Wilson denies this and says people in the city are struggling to make ends meet and that his gas giveaways were a way to help the community.

VISIT LIGHTFOOT’S CAMPAIGN WEBSITE

Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th Ward)

One of the mayor’s harshest critics, Ald. Raymond Lopez, announced he was tossing his hat into the ring on April 6. He was the first person to officially enter the race.

“I love my city and, like most Chicagoans, I am sick and tired of watching Chicago flounder at the hands of a rudderless ship,” Lopez said in a press release at the time.

VISIT LOPEZ’S CAMPAIGN WEBSITE

The following candidates have at one point mentioned a mayoral run, or have been rumored to be a potential candidate. They have since officially said they are not in the running.

John Catanzara, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7

One of the most vocal critics of the current mayor toyed with the idea of running for office but in the end decided to focus on being reelected union president next year.

Catanzara, who has faced dozens of misconduct allegations throughout his career, was elected president of the Fraternal Order of Police in 2020, and he’s believed to be the first union leader to hold the job while stripped of his police powers.

Catanzara has made numerous controversial statements, some on Facebook, during his tenure as FOP president. In one post about Muslims, that was being reviewed by the police board, Catanzara allegedly said, “savages, they all deserve a bullet.” Catanzara defended the comments by saying he was referring to cop killers and people who mutilate women in the name of Islam.   

In a different post, he uploaded a picture of himself in a police uniform making a political statement, which is against department policy.

U.S. Congressman Mike Quigley (5th District)

(Photo by MANDEL NGAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

It was rumored that Rep. Mike Quigley was going to run for mayor, as he had been doing some polling to see if he could defeat Lightfoot.

On April 28, he says polling showed he could win against the mayor but he says he would not be able to commit to a campaign because he cannot step away from his duties in congress during the Russia-Ukraine war.

Former U.S. Education Secretary Arnie Duncan

Former United States Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan (left). (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

Former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, on March 1 said was not tossing his hat into the ring.  

Addressing his decision, Duncan said he was happy running the non-profit Chicago CRED, which takes a multifaceted approach to reduce gun violence while aiding young people’s overall development.

“The best way I can serve our city is to stay laser-focused on reducing gun violence and stay engaged in our sites, on the streets and in the lives of our participants,” a statement by Duncan said.

Political observers say he had been a strong contender for the mayoral role.




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