CHICAGO — Former Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced Thursday that he is endorsing Paul Vallas for mayor of Chicago.

“I’m here today to support this wonderful gentleman because I know that the city will be better for his leadership,” White said.

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White threw his support behind the Chicago mayoral candidate with just about a month out from the runoff election. White and Vallas have known each other for over 40 years, first meeting when White was part of the Illinois General Assembly. 

While the support of White may help Vallas with some groups and African American voters, the former Chicago Public Schools CEO says he feels the endorsement will influence many people across the city. 

“Jesse White’s endorsement helps me with everyone because Jesse is a bridge builder,” Vallas said.

As Vallas gained an endorsement, his opponent Brandon Johnson also worked to sway voters on Thursday. Johnson, a Cook County commissioner and organizer with the Chicago Teachers Union, visited a senior living facility in Bronzeville.

Vallas and Brandon Johnson are set for an April 4 runoff election, so drumming up support from potential voters remains a priority.

“I have a great deal of respect for Mr. White. We’re both public educators. We both pay union dues and we both are big baseball fans,” Johnson said. “But at this moment, the things we are alike on will not determine the outcome of who gets to lead the city of Chicago.” 

Johnson is already going on the attack, accusing Vallas of holding racist beliefs about Black families and teaching Black history in public schools. He points to comments Vallas made on a podcast in 2021. 

On the 2021 podcast, Vallas was asked about the so-called “Critical Race Theory” curriculum. Vallas says in his previous positions, he’s advocated for teaching African-American history year-round. But goes on to say of the debate: “I think it’s detracting from our need to focus on our core subject areas. It’s allowing us to avoid accountability in terms of the quality of our teaching.”

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Vallas said his track record speaks for itself.

“Brandon is going to attack because he can’t offer anything of substance,” he said. “So I’m going to continue running an issue-oriented campaign. It’s gotten me this far.” 

When asked if he considered endorsing Johnson during the election, White responded, “he’s never spoke with the man,” doubling down on his long history with Vallas.