Chicago Mayoral Election 2023: How much could race impact candidates' chances?

Craig Wall Image
Monday, January 30, 2023
How much could race impact Chicago mayoral candidates' chances?
Who is running for mayor of Chicago, and how could race impact candidates' chances of winning?

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The race for Chicago mayor has put a major focus on crime, including how to best combat it and who should lead the police department.

But, with seven of the nine candidates being Black, how much could race be a factor in the Feb. 28 election?

Four years ago, Bill Daley narrowly lost getting into the runoff because the white vote was so splintered among six candidates in the mayor's race, including Paul Vallas, who, this year, is the only white candidate.

The question is how significant will race be this time around.

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When Harold Washington defeated incumbent Mayor Jane Byrne in the 1983 primary, and then went on to win the general election, it was largely due to Black voter turnout.

"Harold Washington made an appeal that it was time for African Americans to have a voice and to have a roll in city hall and African Americans responded to that appeal in droves," said ABC7 Political Analyst Laura Washington.

Longtime political consultant Don Rose said for voters in this election, race may be a less significant factor.

"In 1983, race was the factor, 90%," Rose said. "The issues are pretty much agreed upon, across racial, ethnic lines, neighborhood lines. It's all crime."

Nevertheless, the seven Black candidates in the mayor's race are faced with fact that they will have to appeal to a much wider set of voters to win, given the fact there is only one white candidate and one Latino candidate in the race.

"We have two other candidates who are going to be splitting a much larger piece of the pie, the white vote and the Latino vote," Washington said.

Data from the census done every 10 years shows how Chicago's population has shifted.

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In 1980, Chicago was 46.4% white, 39.5% Black and 14% Hispanic. The 2020 Census shows the population is now split nearly equally among white, Black and Hispanic people.

"Just the African American vote is not going to elect anyone. It requires a broad coalition of individuals, however, when we put our strength together as a community we have a strong voice at that particular table. With our voice being splintered, it becomes somewhat diluted," said 28th Ward Alderman and Black Caucus Chairman Jason Ervin.

That could spell potential trouble for Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who made the runoff four years ago with a good amount of support from white voters.

"She's lost a lot of that support, and many of the voters who believed she was going to be a reform mayor, an effective mayor have become disappointed and are looking elsewhere," Washington said.

"It is quite possible with Garcia and Vallas, that we will not have a Black in this runoff," Rose said.

ABC7 has reached out to all the campaigns and heard back from most. Some of the candidates spoke about the need for building a broad coalition, and a couple said the number of Black candidates challenging Lightfoot is a reflection of dissatisfaction with her.