Paul Vallas' billionaire booster draws backlash in mayoral race
Last week, billionaire Citadel founder Ken Griffin publicly threw his support behind mayoral candidate Paul Vallas. But that might not be a good thing for the front-runner's campaign.
Why it matters: Griffin, a divisive Republican who moved his hedge fund's headquarters out of Chicago last summer, poured millions of dollars into trying to defeat Democrats during the midterms.
- Vallas, a Democrat, has been fending off criticism of his Republican ties throughout his campaign.
Context: Griffin thumbed his nose at Chicago and Mayor Lori Lightfoot last year, publicly bashing the city over rising crime and relocating Citadel's HQ to Miami.
- Public safety, the focus of Vallas' campaign, has been overwhelmingly cited by voters as the most important issue in the city.
The big picture: Griffin has long had his hands in local politics here, most recently boosting Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin to take on Gov. JB Pritzker in his run for re-election.
- Irvin was among a slate of Griffin-backed candidates who lost in the GOP primary last June.
Of note: Griffin has put money behind Democratic mayoral candidates in the past, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
- Griffin's spokesperson says the billionaire won't be donating money to the Vallas campaign, but other Citadel executives have done so.
What they're saying: Vallas said his backers "know the city is in crisis and they need someone who can manage the city," per Bloomberg.
The other side: West Side Cook County commissioner Brandon Johnson quickly seized on Griffin's endorsement to paint his opponent as an ally of the GOP and "right-wing extremists."
- The Chicago Teachers Union, which supports Johnson, criticized Griffin and other business leaders' support of Vallas, releasing a statement calling the front-runner "another suburbanite, business-aligned Republican who will side always with millionaires and billionaires over working families."
Between the lines: For many, Griffin represents very narrow interests. He famously poured millions of dollars into defeating Pritzker's Fair Tax referendum, which would have raised taxes on corporations. He's also been vocal about limiting labor unions' power in collective bargaining.
- In 2014 and 2018, Griffin was a major supporter and donor for Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
- In 2019, Griffin put his weight behind Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Daley. Chicago voters roundly rejected Daley, instead putting their faith in an unknown attorney and former Police Board president Lori Lightfoot.
What we're watching: Pritzker has yet to make an endorsement.
- The most powerful Democrat in the state with very deep pockets could become even more of a factor in the mayor's race now that his rival has lined up with Vallas.
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