Chicago mayoral debate turns heated as Vallas, Johnson discuss major issues

Eric Horng Image
Friday, March 17, 2023
ABC7 Chicago mayoral debate turns heated between Vallas, Johnson
Chicago mayoral candidates Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas sparred over public safety, education, budgets and more at the ABC7 debate Thursday night.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago mayoral candidates faced off in the ABC7 debate Thursday night, at times getting heated as they answered questions from a live studio audience on major issues facing the city.

The debate was held just over two weeks before the runoff election.

WATCH: Full ABC7 Mayoral Debate

Watch the complete ABC7 Chicago mayoral candidates debate between Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas.

With leaders from various community organizations asking the questions, Johnson and Vallas first weighed in on the issue of public safety.

"What we're going to do is train and promote 200 more detectives because we're not solving crime in the city of Chicago, especially in Black and brown, poor communities," Johnson said.

"New York has 6,000 detectives. That's not smart policing. Smart policing is filling the vacancies and pushing the police officers down to the local beats, so they can respond within minutes of a 911 call," said Vallas.

Johnson said Chicago would become safer with more investments in affordable housing, paid for in part by raising the real estate transfer tax on million dollar homes.

"The fact that we are debating whether or not housing is a human right, it tells you why we cannot rely upon the vestiges of the past," Johnson said.

Where does Chicago mayoral race stand after debate?

ABC7 Political Analyst Laura Washington discusses the ABC7 mayoral election debate between Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson.

But Vallas said Johnson's tax plan would impact working people, not just the rich, and questioned the Cook County commissioner's budget experience.

"I'm basically debating with someone who has never managed a budget. Voting for a budget is different than putting a budget together and passing it and then implementing it," Vallas said.

"Yeah, here's what I know about budgets: Paul is not good at it," Johnson shot back.

Johnson challenged Vallas' claims that he successfully ran school districts in Philadelphia and New Orleans.

"You privatized two-thirds of the district, which caused scores of Black women to be laid off because of your failures," he said.

Vallas challenged Johnson's biography as well.

"I'm running against somebody who talks about the best job he ever had was being a teacher, and he taught for five years in a school that I built in Cabrini Green called Jenner," he said.

In their closing statements, the two candidates found one point if agreement: they both said the contrast in this race couldn't be clearer.