CHICAGO — The April 4 fight for City Hall is set.
Chicagoans have just five weeks to choose a new direction for the city. On Day 1 of the runoff, the contrasts between the two finalists, Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson, were sharp.
“People want a problem-solver and that’s what I am,” Vallas said.
“I’m going to be the mayor for the entire city of Chicago,” Johnson said.
The race pits former Chicago Public Schools CEO Vallas versus Cook County Commissioner Johnson — ideological opposites with divergent visions for the city.
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On Wednesday, both mayoral hopefuls wasted no time going on the attack.
“Vallas is being dishonest and he’s lying to the people of Chicago,” Johnson said.
“Brandon’s going to have to answer for his long advocacy for defunding the police,” Vallas said.
Johnson, backed by the Chicago Teachers Union, SEIU and other progressive political forces, finished second in Tuesday’s election behind Vallas. As Johnson tries to make up ground in the runoff, he’s expounding on his call to reallocate police funding.
“We have to be smart by having first responders to respond to the mental health crisis that frees up law enforcement to focus in on the more violent crime in the city of Chicago,” Johnson said.
Vallas, who’s trying to keep to his tough-on-crime message, pivoted to raising questions about Johnson’s promise of almost $1 billion in new spending.
“Brandon still has to explain his so-called tax-the-rich plan that doesn’t look like a tax-a-rich plan to me when you’re talking about head taxes on small businesses, which are taxes on the number of employees, or when you’re talking about things like raising the hotel, motel tax,” Vallas said.
Johnson is hitting back pointing to Vallas’ time as city budget director in the 1990s.
“Everywhere he’s been in charge of the finances, he has left despair. And so, we eliminate the debt in my first term, the debt that he caused and we do makeup the $1 billion in investments,” Johnson said.
On Wednesday, both campaigns worked to expand their coalition and raise dollars for the runoff. Neither candidate offered new proposals to appeal to the center, they both stuck to the script they’d been using.