Chicago mayoral election: Vallas, Johnson to face off in runoff after Lightfoot concedes

ByABC7 Eyewitness News Team Coverage WLS logo
Wednesday, March 1, 2023
Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson will face off in the April mayoral runoff election after Lori Lightfoot conceded Tuesday night.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson will face off in the April mayoral runoff election after Lori Lightfoot called Johnson to concede Tuesday night.

Lightfoot was polling in third place behind Johnson with Jesus "Chuy" Garcia in fourth place. Her campaign confirmed to ABC7 that she called the Johnson campaign to concede shortly before addressing supporters at about 8:40 p.m.

Click here to see live election results

Since no one candidate got 50% of the vote, voters will return to the polls for a runoff between the top two vote-getters on April 4.

Vallas has been a candidate before, but this is the first time he has ever won an election. He placed ninth out of 14 candidates four years ago when Lightfoot was elected.

Other candidates painted him as a Republican in Democrat clothing, but addressing supporters Tuesday night he said he's a life-long pro-choice Democrat.

Paul Vallas addressed an excited crowd of supporters after advacing to the Chicago mayoral runoff election in April.

"I would like to thank you all, old friends and new, for joining this campaign," Vallas told his supporters at the Fulton Market event space City Hall. "It is because of you we are in the second round."

Vallas is the son of Greek immigrants, and said he comes from a family of teachers, police officers and firefighters. While his background and expertise is in education, he made his campaign about public safety and was endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police.

Johnson experienced a surge in recent polls and finished second to qualify for the runoff. A former teacher, Chicago Teachers Union Organizer and current Cook County commissioner, he didn't have name recognition but he did have extensive connections.

Johnson grew up on the West Side and lives in Austin, and has strong connections with the CTU and teachers across the city. He is one of 10 children, the son and grandson of ministers and is a father of four.

After advancing, he thanked his family, his supporters and the other candidates for their public service, though he wasted no time going after Vallas.

Brandon Johnson spoke to supporters on the West Side after advancing to the runoff Chicago mayoral election.

"Tonight is about building a Chicago that truly invests in our people," he told supporters. "You know, the most radical thing we can do as a city is to love the people of Chicago."

Four years ago, Lightfoot made history as the first Black woman and openly gay candidate to win the mayor's office. Her term was marked by a contentious relationship with the Chicago City Council and unions from the CTU to the FOP. Tonight she made history again, becoming the first elected incumbent in 40 years to not win a second term.

Lightfoot addressed supporters somberly, but not without pride.

Lori Lightfoot addresses her supporters after failing to qualify for the April runoff.

"Obviously we didn't win the election today, but I stand here with my head held high and a heart full of gratitude," she said.

She told supporters she was proud of her accomplishments, especially Invest Southwest which has brought investment and opportunity to underserved communities on the South and West Sides, and said it must continue. She also said she is rooting for whoever takes the mayor's office next.

WATCH: What happens next if mayoral election goes to a runoff?

Max Bever with the Chicago Board of Elections discusses the municipal election.

Ahead of Election Day, a record 244,000 early vote were cast. More than 1/3 of early voters were aged 65 and older.

When polls closed at 7 p.m. a total of 507,852 votes had been cast for 32.1% citywide. The largest group of voters by age were people 55 to 64 years old.

Officials said turnout on Election Day has been sluggish compared to 2019, with about 8,000 fewer votes each hour.

More than 100,000 vote-by-mail ballots that have not been returned, so it could take a few days for results in some races to be finalized. .

"That could potentially make a difference in some aldermanic, mayoral and other races. So it is very possible we wouldn't know by tonight who the top two candidates are," Marisel Hernandez said.

Jesus "Chuy" Garcia was in fourth place at the end of election night, but said he had no plans to concede tonight and instead wanted to wait for mail in ballots to be counted. Willie Wilson finished in fifth place, Ja'mal Green in sixth place, Kam Buckner in seventh, Sophia King in eighth and Roderick Sawyer in ninth place.

Voters said this was not an easy decision, as there are so many candidates for mayor.

"I mean anytime you have nine candidates, makes it a little more difficult because there are sometimes just one or two things that separate the candidates, so yeah, it was fairly difficult," voter Kevin Sweetland said.

Issues like public safety, equity and taxes are at the top the list for many at the ballot box.

WATCH: What are Chicago voters' top issues?

What are Chicago voters' top issues?

There are also races for aldermen in all 50 wards.