Mar 6, 2023 - Politics

Key endorsements to watch in the Chicago mayoral runoff

Photo illustration of Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson surrounded by an abstract pattern of stars of the Chicago flag.

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Jacek Boczarski/Anadolu Agency, Scott Olson/Getty Images

As Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas crisscross the city trying to sway voters ahead of April 4, they're hoping their allies can help.

Why it matters: High-profile endorsements from other Chicago Democrats could make or break these campaigns.

Driving the news: Late last week, Vallas picked up the endorsements of former Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and former CPS board president Gery Chico.

  • Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is behind Brandon Johnson and U.S. Representative Danny Davis is expected to endorse Johnson this morning.

Other powerful Democrats could still weigh in:

Gov. JB Pritzker: Pritzker stayed out of the mayoral fray in the municipal election but indicated he might break his silence for the runoff.

  • He endorsed some aldermanic candidates, including notable progressive names like Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd) and Ald. Maria Hadden (49th).
  • Because Pritzker is the de facto leader of the state Democratic party, his support would be a boon for either candidate.

Sens. Dick Durbin & Tammy Duckworth: As a moderate, Durbin may be closer to Vallas than to Johnson, but Durbin's been quiet in this election cycle.

  • Duckworth previously endorsed Lightfoot, so she could be looking for a new candidate.

Lightfoot: She may have lost, but she did capture most of the Black wards, which will be crucial for Johnson's path to victory.

  • Lightfoot put out recent ads calling Johnson "radical" but also attacked Vallas throughout the campaign.
  • Reality check: There's a chance the lame-duck mayor will sit this one out, as she's been critical of both candidates.

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley: Daley has mostly stayed out of Chicago politics since leaving office in 2011. But he did break his silence in the 11th Ward in this election, endorsing incumbent Ald. Nicole Lee.

  • Vallas used to work for Daley at CPS and in the city's budget office.

Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García: Vallas would be smart to seek help from García, who won several Latino wards on the Southwest Side, but the congressman is more likely to back fellow progressive Johnson.

  • One clue: When Johnson had trouble remembering another name for a 16-inch softball during our mayoral forum quiz, García helped him from the audience, yelling, "a clincher!"

Congressional delegation: Johnson already has lined up Rep. Jonathan Jackson and Rep. Delia Ramirez and adds Rep. Davis today.

  • Rep. Robin Kelly backed Lightfoot.
  • Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Rep. Mike Quigley backed García.

Of note: Johnson's Hail Mary may be to lean on another famous community organizer from Chicago.

  • But the former president might not get involved in the mayoral race for a town he no longer lives in.

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