Mayoral candidates discuss Burke, taxes and hit Daley hard during WTTW debate

CHICAGO — Five of the leading candidates in the polls for the Chicago mayoral race went head-to-head Monday during a televised WTTW forum.

Bill Daley, Toni Preckwinkle, Susana Mendoza, Paul Vallas and Willie Wilson addressed questions important to voters — many of whom are still undecided.

Voters will see more than a dozen names on the ballot on Feb. 26, but a recent poll from NBC-5/Telemundo shows a close race where at least six of them have a shot at making a run-off. Preckwinkle is at the top with 14 percent, followed closely by Daley with 13 percent. Mendoza is at 12 percent, Lori Lightfoot is at 10 percent, Gery Chico is at nine percent and Amara Eniya is at seven percent of the vote.

On Monday candidates addressed questions about Ald. Ed Burke, who was charged with attempted extortion for "corruptly soliciting business" for his private law firm. Mendoza was asked why she was married at his home.

“It’s because in my family, my father and mother’s heritage is Mexican and it’s very common tradition that we do a small civil service. Our real wedding was a week later in a church,” she said.

Joe Berrios also came up — he’s the former Cook County Assessor and a close ally of Preckwinkle. Berrios was defeated for re-election last year amid questions about Cook County’s property tax system.

Preckwinkle was asked why she continues to support him.

“You know I’m president of the county. As president of the county I have to work with 11 separately elected officials. One of those elected officials was Joe Berrios assessor,” Preckwinkle said.

Daley was asked about a Chicago Tribune report that raised questions about a state insurance exam he took years ago. He said he did not cheat, and that the article did not have any allegations that he did anything in that event 46 years ago.

The night’s sharpest exchange came when Mendoza picked a fight with Daley, first over Mayor Richard M. Daley’s highly unpopular parking meter deal. Then, over the insurance test.

“He said he didn’t cheat on his test. He had someone else cheat on his test. This is how it works when you have the privilege and the name of a Daley,” Mendoza said.

Vallas also threw punches over the parking meter deal.

“J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley, which had another Daley working for them then went after the business in Pittsburg,” Vallas said. “The only people who are profiting from the parking meter deal are the investment companies that are investing in the deal.”

Wilson held his fire, instead choosing to make a play for anti-tax Republican voters.

“If Republicans are for lower taxes on the citizens, I’m a Republican. If Democrats are for lower prices on citizens, I’m a Democrat, alright? I don’t look at the name,” Wilson said.

During the course of the campaign, Daley has skipped a number of forums, but not this one. Monday night, he faced his rivals, who were waiting to go after him.

Daley was endorsed by the Chicago Tribune. Hedge fund billionaire and Illinois’ richest man, Ken Griffin, contributed $1 million to the campaign.

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