CHICAGO — State Representative Kam Buckner announced Thursday his Chicago mayoral candidacy.

The former linebacker for the University of Illinois joins Ald. Ray Lopez (15th Ward) and businessman Willie Wilson in their bids for the mayor’s office. Declaring on his birthday, Buckner says he has seen a poisonous path of division within the city and expressed the mayor’s job is to fight.

Buckner has been serving in the 26th House District, which runs from the Gold Coast to the Southeast Side. But some question whether he’s as connected to the community he represents.

When he sponsored state legislation to outlaw ghost guns, community activists said they didn’t think he went hard enough on criminals, adding they didn’t feel included in the conversation. 

But Buckner says if he’s elected mayor, he’ll focus on crime and education as he comes from a family of teachers and principals. 

“I think it is premature to make a decision on who the (Chicago) police superintendent is,” Buckner said.

The state rep says he’s not worried about finding a replacement for CPD Supt. David Brown because there’s a lot of talent already within the ranks of CPD. Buckner works with commanders regularly as his house district includes five police districts. 

“What I’m hearing is people don’t feel safe,” Buckner said. “They know what’s happening with our education system. They want some understanding about what’s going to happen with our business corridors and our economy. They want a way forward. They are tired of us fighting with each other. They want us to find a way to fight for Chicago and move forward.” 

With the department down 1,600 officers and more retirements on the way, Buckner says he wants more resources poured into communities to prevent crime, including mental health support. 

Buckner has been critical of how Lightfoot does business. But the mayoral candidate on Thursday was hesitant to criticize Lightfoot’s personality, only saying Chicago’s leader should essentially play nice with others because the city has too much to lose. 

“That can’t be the reason that we don’t get to solutions,” Buckner said. “In this work for the people, we can’t take things personally.” 

Buckner says he doesn’t want a teacher contract to be a war when it comes to schools. He says he’s prepared to negotiate from his kitchen table if he has to – not from podiums or press releases – because parents are fed up. 

“We’re sitting by a telephone at 10 at night trying to see whether their children have school, trying to figure out how to log into a broadband system that was janky,” Buckner said.

He also wants to make sure the Chicago Bears don’t go anywhere. 

“The Chicago Bears should always play football in Chicago.” 

Buckner has pleaded guilty to two DUIs. One in 2019 and one in 2010. His most recent occurred when he was found asleep behind the wheel of his car in Springfield, one block from the Capital. Buckner says those are past mistakes and missteps and he is a changed man.