The Crusader Newspaper Group

Brandon Johnson won City Hall with the Black vote

Mayor-Elect Brandon Johnson (Photo by Marcus Robinson)

Photo caption: Mayor-Elect Brandon Johnson (Photo by Marcus Robinson)

Despite opinion polls and the Black political establishment against him, Brandon Johnson on a historic day stunned his opponent as he was elected mayor of Chicago on the strength of the Black vote. With Paul Vallas receiving strong support from white voters and Black elected officials, it was Black voters who saved Johnson’s campaign in a tight runoff election that gained national and global attention as Vallas’ anti-crime message and police-backed agenda fueled racial tensions.

On election night, Johnson emerged victorious as Chicago’s fourth Black mayor, with additional support from white and Latino progressive voters. They shared concerns about systemic inequities in Chicago’s schools and in neighborhoods on the South and West sides.

After Vallas conceded the race, Johnson, at his election night party at the Marriott Marquis Hotel near McCormick Place, said, “Today, Chicago has spoken. Chicago has said yes to hope, yes to investment in people, yes to housing the unhoused, and yes to supporting young people with fully-funded schools. It is a new day in our city.”

On the 55th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., young voters went to the polls and gave Johnson a stunning victory filled with historic symbolism that reflected Johnson’s political struggles, as he faced heavy opposition from the Black political establishment while he campaigned for Chicago’s overlooked and disenfranchised residents.

Paul Vallas
Paul Vallas

In the end Johnson prevailed, taking nearly 51 percent of the vote to Vallas’ 49 percent. Johnson won by 15,872 votes. He will be sworn in on May 15 as incumbent Lori Lightfoot prepares to leave office as the city’s first Black female mayor.

However, as of Crusader press time Wednesday for its print edition, election officials still had over 70,000 mail-in ballots to count. Late in the afternoon, Johnson’s lead over Vallas grew to 16,108 votes.

Meanwhile, data from the Chicago Board of Elections show that Johnson won City Hall on the Black vote. He won all 17 Black wards, including the 27th Ward, which voted for Vallas in the Primary election.

Johnson won over 80 percent of the vote in nine Black wards. He won over 70 percent of the vote in four Black wards. Johnson’s strongest win was in the 24th Ward, where he won 84 percent of the vote.

Overall, Johnson won 76 percent of the Black vote to Vallas’ 24 percent. News outlets reported that Johnson needed 80 percent of the Black vote to win and Vallas needed 20 percent of the Black vote to become Chicago’s mayor. Neither candidate achieved those percentage numbers, but Johnson won anyway because of strong support in Chicago’s white and Latino communities, where Vallas’ wins were weaker than his wins in the Primary election in February.

Progressive white and Latino voters contributed to Johnson’s election victory. Data show that Johnson won six progressive liberal white wards on the North Side, including the 44th Ward, where he won just 29 percent of the vote in the Primary election. But on Tuesday, April 4, Johnson took over 50 percent of the vote in the 44th Ward, which includes the Wrigleyville and Lakeview neighborhoods.

Johnson’s strongest support in white wards was in the 1st Ward, which includes Logan Square, West Town, Wicker Park, Bucktown, Humboldt Park, Ukrainian Village, and East Village.

Data show Johnson won 73 percent of the vote in the 49th Ward to Vallas’ 27 percent.BRANDON JOHNSON VS PAUL VALLAS IMAGE

While capturing six white wards, Johnson received 40 percent of the vote in two white wards. Also in the white wards, Johnson received over 30 percent of the vote in three wards and over 20 percent of the vote in five of those wards. That support weakened Vallas’ dominance in the white wards. He won 12 of them but took 61 percent of the white vote, compared to Johnson’s 39 percent.

In Chicago’s Latino community, Johnson won six wards and received over 40 percent of the vote in another six wards, weakening Vallas’ performance. Overall, Johnson won 49 percent of the Latino vote, compared to Vallas’ 51 percent, according to calculations of election data.

Johnson and Vallas differed sharply on their campaign agendas. Fighting crime and community is where they differed most. Johnson won over many voters with his plan to invest in social programs as a holistic approach to reducing crime on the streets.

Johnson also believed that surveillance and mass arrests were not solutions to community policing. He also campaigned for equity in Chicago Public Schools and once talked about traveling from his home in Austin to take his child to Kenwood to take violin classes available at Kenwood Academy.

A former teacher and a Cook County Commissioner raised by parents who are church pastors, Johnson wasn’t expected to become Chicago’s mayor. He polled at just two percent when he announced his mayoral campaign in 2022.

During the Primary, he came in second with 21 percent of the vote among six Black candidates. On Monday, April 3, one day before Election Day, Victory Research showed Vallas with 49.6 percent chance of winning to Johnson’s 45.4 percent. Vallas’ lead widened from two points to 4.2 points, when compared to the previous poll, which was conducted in late March.

Many of Chicago’s Black leaders campaigned hard against Johnson while supporting Vallas, a conservative Democrat who on video years ago said he identifies himself more as a Republican.

Despite his conservative, back-the-blue agenda and endorsement from the Fraternal Order of Police, Black leaders, including retired Secretary of State Jesse White; retired Congressman Bobby Rush, a former Black Panther; former State Senator Emil Jones, Jr.; businessman Willie Wilson; and youth organizer Ja’Mal Green, all endorsed Vallas.

Approximately 20 aldermen endorsed Vallas, including eight Blacks. They included progressive Caucus Chair Sophia King (4th), Roderick Sawyer (6th), Alderman Michelle Harris (8th), Anthony Beale (9th) David Moore (17th), Derrick Curtis (18th), Walter Burnett (27th) and Emma Mitts (37th).

Vallas ran numerous, round-the clock political advertisements featuring Wilson, Mitts and White on WVON. They criticized Johnson and accused him of having an agenda that would defund the police and drain Chicago residents with property taxes.

For an entire hour on WVON’s Perri Small show on Wednesday morning, Johnson’s supporters blasted Black political officials and accused them of betraying the Black community as they endorsed Vallas. Some said they felt Johnson was vindicated by his win. Some callers said they are keeping a list of Vallas’ Black supporters who they will vote against in future elections.

In addition, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn endorsed Vallas, who received massive campaign donations from wealthy white businessmen.

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker did not endorse any candidate, but questions remain whether the governor’s decision will hurt his chances of getting the Black vote should he run for U.S. president.

Throughout the campaign, Blacks across the city expressed concern and interpreted Vallas’ promise to “take back our city” as an attack on Black residents in Chicago, where a consent decree and a stop-and-frisk settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union were signed after numerous incidents of racial profiling and police misconduct.

Election officials said turnout during Early Voting was higher than previous elections. After Tuesday’s election, 35.19 percent of Chicago’s nearly 1.6 million voters had voted. That number is expected to surpass the turnout of Primary elections after the official numbers are updated.

Election data show young voters between ages 18 to 25 turned out in higher numbers than the Primary, with nearly four percent of that age group going to the polls. Over 16 percent of young voters between ages 25 to 34 cast their ballots.

Many undecided voters who did not know Johnson warmed up to his agenda as he participated in mayoral forums where he impressed many with his campaign agenda and his resilience against attacks from Vallas and critics.

At his election night watch party, Johnson shot back. “They said this would never happen. So, you know, if they didn’t know, now they know,” Johnson said at his victory rally Tuesday night.

“To the Chicagoans who did not vote for me, here’s what I want you to know; that I care about you, I value you, and I want to hear from you. I want to work with you, and I’ll be the mayor for you, too, because this campaign has always been about building a better, stronger, safer Chicago for all the people of Chicago.”

For Vallas, the defeat is another stain on the track record of an individual who has never won an election for mayor or Illinois governor. In conceding the race for mayor Tuesday night, many of Vallas’ supporters booed as he spoke.

“I ran for mayor to bring the city together, and it’s clear based on the results tonight that the city is deeply divided. So tonight, even though of course we believe every vote should be counted, I called Brandon Johnson and told him that I absolutely expect him to be the next mayor of Chicago,” Vallas said.

“This campaign that I ran to bring the city together would not be a campaign that fulfilled my ambitions if this election is going to divide us more. So it’s critically important that we use this opportunity to come together, and I have offered him my full support on his transition.”

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