CHICAGO (WLS) -- With less than three weeks until the election, new polling numbers show a statistical dead heat in the race for Chicago mayor.
According to a new Sun-Times/WBEZ poll conducted last week, Lori Lightfoot is at 17%, Jesus "Chuy" Garcia with 20%, and Paul Vallas at 18%. Willie Wilson came in fourth with 12%. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4%, and a large number of voters have yet to decide on their candidate.
Some of the candidates participated in a forum at the student center at UIC hosted by the Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ. The forum is one of two events split between both days, and all nine mayoral candidates are scheduled to take part.
This is the second straight night candidates have appeared at community forums, each trying to increase their public appearances.
This time the questions centered on early childhood education and childcare.
As they filed in to the forum Wednesday, Paul Vallas was placed in the middle of a mayoral forum with five of the nine candidates. The former Chicago Public Schools CEO took heat from his right and left as he has became his opponents' political punching bag.
"You can collect all the guns you want, but if you are not making arrests, you're not accomplishing anything," Vallas said.
"Everything you said is categorically untrue and probably because you are getting your public safety advice from John Catanzara, who you hosted a fundraiser with two days ago," Lightfoot fired back.
Catanzara is the controversial president of the Fraternal Order of Police, the police union that has endorsed Vallas. Garcia took a shot at Vallas for trying to get a Little Village high school built over 20 years ago.
"We had to fight Paul Vallas because he stole our money and sent it to schools downtown," Garcia said.
Vallas said he did fund the school. State Rep. Kam Buckner also blamed Vallas for CPS' problems.
"The reason CPS is the way it is today is because of the things that happened during Paul's tenure and after Paul and it was by design," Buckner said.
Alderman Sofia King, who aired her first TV ad Wednesday, and fellow candidate Roderick Sawyer suggested incentivizing childcare as a career.
"Money should not be deciding factor," Sawyer said.
The last three candidates standing batted around their thoughts on how to make child care more accessible to everyone, including universal pre-kindergarten.
"This is about easing burden on working families," Buckner said.
"There is no one who takes care of our children better than us," Ja'Mal Green said.
The WBEZ/Sun-Times forum included questions from a listener survey addressing the immediate needs of crime, schools, the CTA and making the roads safer for bikes.
King was the only candidate who suggested banning right on red lights and reducing the speed limit.
"Lowering speeds in all communities is something I would do," King said. "Thirty miles an hour in neighborhoods is just too fast."
Part two of the forum will be held Thursday at University of Chicago with the four remaining candidates; Willie Wilson, Brandon Johnson, Roderick Sawyer and Ja'Mal Green.
Election Day in Chicago is February 28. The two candidates that get the most votes will move to the runoff election on April 4.