CHICAGO (WLS) -- Parades are known for drawing crowds, and with them, politicians looking for exposure and potential votes. But in this election season, they were few and far between at Chicago's 70th annual Columbus Day parade.
"You have parades that have become very controversial for a variety of political reasons and politicians don't want to alienate any part of a constituency, especially a large part of the constituency," said Laura Washington, ABC7 Political Analyst.
Columbus Day is among them. The controversy is tied to protests about the treatment of indigenous people that led to Mayor Lightfoot to order Columbus statues removed.
WATCH | ABC7 broadcasts Chicago's Columbus Day Parade
For parade organizers, there was a sense of disappointment with those politicians who were not there - particularly if it's out of concern about the controversy.
"Any elected official who's not here today, I feel bad for them because they're not really standing up for people they're standing up for themselves," said Ron Onesti, president of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans.
"If that's why they're staying away, then they're cowards, that's what I would say," 38th Ward Ald. Nick Sposato said.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who most recently attended the Bud Billiken Parade, was unavailable Monday, her campaign said.
Governor JB Pritzker, who marched in the same parade along with numerous others this year, had a scheduling conflict.
Darren Bailey, who has frequently called Chicago a "hell-hole," did march in the parade and said his problem was not with the people here, just the crime, which he has made a key campaign issue.
"I think it's an absolute shame that Governor Pritzker and Lori Lightfoot choose to diminish the accomplishments that Italians have made to our society," Bailey said. "So no, I want to celebrate this, this is what America is about right here."
But after the mass shooting at the July 4th parade in Highland Park, some politicians are choosing to just avoid parades all together.
"We can't allow fear to stop what our traditions are, we have to overcome, we have to show that we are willing to bounce back, otherwise they win," said Ald. Ray Lopez 15th Ward, who is running for Chicago mayor.