All 5 mayoral candidates appear at forum

CHICAGO (WLS) -- For the first time during the campaign, all five candidates for Chicago mayor took part in a forum targeted at female voters, who had the opportunity to submit questions for Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his challengers.

Saturday's event at the Chicago Temple allowed voters to hear from the candidates on a variety of issues, including domestic violence, economic inequality and education.

Many who attended the forum said they did not even know some of the candidates, let alone their positions, even though the election is a little more than a month away.

"I learned a lot today. I think it was a specifically great forum to do that," said voter Layne Jackson.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel was the first to take the stage. Answering questions submitted by audience members, the mayor highlighted his achievements during the last three years, including the lengthening of the school day and providing a full day of kindergarten for CPS students. But he also had to repeatedly defend his decision to close 50 public schools.

"We made a very difficult decision, but because of the changes we made, more kids than before are going to better schools," Emanuel said. "We put the resources toward improving those schools, gave them the technology, and we dramatically expanded the safe passage routes."

Education was clearly the top issue on the minds of voters and candidates during the forum. Both Ald. Bob Fioretti and Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia emphasized the need for a moratorium on the creation of more charter schools.

"We need a moratorium on charter schools," Fioretti said. "The problem that's underlining this election is income inequality. It affects everything and especially our schools."

"We feel that there ought to be a moratorium on charter schools until we have a better handle, and what has occurred nationally, until we evaluate their role within the Chicago Public School system," Garcia said.

Next on stage was businessman Willie Wilson. A self-made millionaire with no political experience, Wilson explained his decision to run for mayor.

"We try to make difference in people's lives," he said. "I'm running for mayor of the City of Chicago to change things."

Finally, activist William "Dock" Walls. During his last run in 2011 Walls only got 1 percent of the vote. He is still undeterred.

"People know me, they know my commitment," Walls said. "And people vote for people they know, like and trust. So over the next four weeks our role is to convince people to vote William 'Dock' Walls for mayor."

Voters leaving Saturday's forum said they felt the exchange helped them make up their minds about who to vote for.

"I came in here knowing a little bit. I came out very well-educated. Now I know I can make a smart and intelligent decision on my vote for mayor," first-time voter Eric Adams said.

The election for mayor is scheduled for Feb. 24. Early voting begins Feb. 9.

Copyright © 2021 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.