Crunch time for mayoral candidates as early voting begins Monday

CHICAGO — The Chicago mayoral election will be on Feb. 26, and early voting started in the city on Monday. For the candidates, it’s crunch time.

 It was a big day on the campaign trial as early voting sites opened in all 50 Chicago wards. On Monday morning, Bill Daley and Susana Mendoza cast their votes and posted images of themselves on Twitter:

Lori Lightfoot also voted early.

“It was incredibly humbling. A little bit surreal and I brought my daughter in with me to the voting booth and they asked her who we should pick, and luckily she said me,” she said.

According to the Board of Election, about 50,000 Chicagoans have requested vote-by-mail ballots. As of Monday, only 1,762 people had voted at the Loop Super Site which opened on Jan. 29. The Chair of the Board of Election Commissioners, Marisel Hernandez, explained there are multiple reasons why people have not voted yet.

“It’s a combination of the weather and the fact that we have 14 candidates who are within the last week have been openly debating and in forums and people are just trying to take that in,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez is expecting a big turnout of about 40 percent. That would be excellent, but fall well short of the 83 percent turnout in 1983 when Chicago elected Harold Washington mayor.

“That was the highest ever. For presidential elections we never got that high,” Hernandez said.

Also on Monday, four of the 14 mayoral hopefuls took part in an early childhood education forum.

“I will construct a formula that allocates the resources necessary so you can have universal pre-natal to the classroom. It is not a budget issue, it’s a budget allocation issue,” Paul Vallas said.

The forum touched on other issues including taxes. La Shawn Ford railed against existing city taxes and fees.

“Regressive taxes, red light cameras, sugar tax, water tax, bag tax, boots — and not winter boots, we have to make sure that we do everything that we can to pinch number 32, that’s my punch number,” he said.

John Kozlar, who’s trying to position himself an anti-establishment alternative, urged voters to try something new.

“Chicago is at its crossroads right now. We can either go along with this corrupt system or we can really make a difference and elect someone new. And that’s what Chicago needs. We need a complete tidal wave of change inside City Hall,” he said.

Money could play a big factor. Daley announced Monday that his campaign has now raised more than $6 million, that’s about $2 million more than his closest competitor, Toni Preckwinkle.

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