CHICAGO (WLS) -- Early voting for the February election started Thursday at two sites in Chicago. The biggest contest is the race for mayor.
A new poll released by Victory Research Thursday shows a virtual dead heat between Paul Vallas and the incumbent Mayor Lightfoot in the 2023 Chicago Mayoral Race.
Jesus "Chuy" Garcia is in third, followed by Brandon Johnson and Willie Wilson. About 12% of the people who were polled in the last three days said they are still undecided.
This comes as all nine candidates squared off this in a forum that was split into two rounds, with the top five polling candidates going first.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot faced criticism from several of her challengers but she was also going after some of her closest rivals, including Paul Vallas in particular.
"Chicago's in a leadership crisis," he said.
"I am seeking your vote for four more years of reelection to finish the work that we started," Lightfoot said.
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Lightfoot faced off against what polls consistently show are her four biggest challengers.
With Vallas shaping up as one of Lightfoot's most dangerous opponents, he became the most frequent target of her criticism during the WCPT radio forum.
"This man has no plan to keep Chicago safe," Lightfoot commented. "He's embellishing all of the other parts of his so-called public safety bonafides."
Vallas has made public safety the cornerstone of his campaign as reflected in his TV ads. He defended his record.
"947 murders in 1992 when I came in to be budget director and after the community policing initiatives, you saw the largest decrease in crime in the city's history," Vallas said.
Jesus "Chuy" Garcia also faced scrutiny over his public safety plan, which has been called a copy and paste from Mayor Lightfoot's.
"The difference between the two plans is the following: I recognize the need for new leadership and there will be new leadership. Superintendent Brown will go," Garcia said. "It's been a failure."
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Brandon Johnson tried to separate himself from the pack.
"We're all feeling less safe and less hope because the politics of old continues to leave families behind. There's nothing original on this stage except for me," Johnson said.
Willie Wilson was forced to defend comments made during the ABC7 Forum earlier this month, where he said criminals need to be hunted down like rabbits.
"You need to hunt everybody down that commits these crimes without them just walking around to commit a crime to someone else," Wilson said.