Mar 15, 2023 - Politics

Tracking the LGBTQ vote in the Chicago mayoral race

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

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

Leaders of Chicago's LGBTQ community are speaking out about their picks for the next mayor.

Why it matters: Strong support from the community helped propel Lori Lightfoot to victory in 2019.

  • Roughly 298,000 LGBTQ adults live in the Chicago area, according to a 2021 UCLA study.

Driving the news: Last week a group of LGBTQ lawmakers and leaders criticized Paul Vallas for what they called a "quarter-century-long pattern" of anti-LGBTQ actions, dating back to his time at CPS.

  • Some, like Brian Johnson of Equity Illinois, the state's largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, take issue with Vallas' social media accounts liking anti-LGBTQ sentiments online. Vallas, who has denied his involvement, blamed his staffers, and hackers.
  • But Tom Tunney, the city's first openly gay alderman, defended Vallas to Axios saying, "People like Paul and myself, too, are not fully aware of social media and its consequences."
  • He also called Vallas "an early, early supporter of marriage equality."

What they're saying: Cook County commissioner Brandon Johnson's platform was already drawing LGBTQ voters in February, and now they're consolidating even more for the April runoff, Windy City Times co-founder Tracy Baim, who's been covering Chicago's LGBTQ vote since 1984, tells Axios.

  • "As soon as Brandon Johnson was announced as making the runoff, I noticed quite a movement of LGBTQ folks who had either supported Lightfoot or stayed neutral moving into Johnson's court," Baim said.

Between the lines: Vallas has drawn criticism for speaking at a June 2022 fundraiser for Awake Illinois, a group criticized for anti-LGBTQ stances.

The response: Vallas spokesperson Sally Daly told Axios, "Paul is running to be a mayor for all Chicagoans" and referred us to his LGBTQ platform, which says he would:

  • Train police to better assist victims of hate crimes.
  • Create "safe spaces" for LGBTQ students in schools.
  • Take a "zero-tolerance" stance for businesses that discriminate against people for "sexual orientation or gender identity."

Zoom in: Johnson's platform promises to expand access to health care for LGBTQ residents, invest in preserving cultural cornerstones, and create a city Department of LGBTQ Affairs.

What we're watching: Any moves by Lightfoot or her biggest LGBTQ funder Laura Ricketts to back a candidate in the runoff.

What's next: Several LGBTQ+ organizations, including Brave Space Alliance and the Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus, will hold a Brown and Black LGBTQ Mayoral Forum at Adler University on March 22, when the candidates' LGBTQ record will get further scrutiny.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the Brown and Black LGBTQ Mayoral Forum is hosted by several LGBTQ+ organizations, not the Windy City Times.


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