CHICAGO — With Election Day just weeks away, Chicago’s mayoral candidates are looking to lock in their place as a top contender in the nine-person field.
This is the second one this week after a heated forum moderated by WGN on Tuesday.
Eight of the nine candidates, including Mayor Lori Lightfoot, will take the stage Friday evening for a town hall in East Beverly.
Two candidates not initially on the list were Willie Wilson and Ja’Mal Green.
Green said he was excluded by Illinois 123Go’s mayoral forum and called the decision “outrageous.”
He showed up and was eventually given a seat alongside fellow candidates.
At the start of the night, all candidates were given an opportunity to share why they’re running for mayor and what they want voters to know.
The candidates fielded questions on several topics, including how they will support those in the classrooms at Chicago Public Schools and the contract ending in 2024, their thoughts on the use of TIFs in the city and the correlation between violence, mental health and the environment children are surrounded by.
It was the final topic that led to a heated exchange between candidates Johnson and Vallas. Lightfoot also took the chance to comment on the matter and pushed back at Vallas.
Candidates were also given the chance to answer several questions from the community, including what they will do to concretely work on the problem of affordable housing.
All but one candidate present stayed for the entire duration.
Johnson left early to get to another obligation.
Two of the candidates who attended the forum, Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas, are the latest to pick up endorsements.
Some sitting aldermen have endorsed the current mayor, while others are turning their sights to her opponents.
Budget chair Adl. Pat Dowell, a one-time ally of Lightfoot, said she’s backing Johnson’s bid.
“We are at a dire point in the city,” Dowell said. “We are at a crossroads. We have to take this election seriously.”
Dowell, now the sixth member of the City Council to endorse Johnson, was surrounded by a group holding “Women for Brandon Johnson” signs during the event held in her South Side ward.
Meantime, Vallas won an endorsement from 2nd Ward Ald. Brian Hopkins on the North Side, on top of his recent endorsement from retiring alderman Tom Tunney.
“There’s an extra element of risk making an endorsement now before we even know who’s going to be in the runoff,” Hopkins said. “I’m willing to take that risk.”
Hopkins, who is running unopposed, speculated some colleagues looking ahead to their next term may be privately supporting other candidates other than Lightfoot out of fear of retribution.
“Mayor Lightfoot is not a forgiving woman,” Hopkins said. “She even has a tendency to be vindictive, petty if you will, in some cases.”
As support rolls in for Vallas, he’s also met with increased criticism by other candidates, including Chuy Garcia, who launched an ad labeling him a Republican who wouldn’t protect abortion.
Chicago’s elections are non-partisan.