CHICAGO — This is a close competitive contest and as you would expect with time running out things got heated.
One week before Election Day, a live television debate where the candidates for mayor of Chicago clashed over the familiar topic of police, education and taxes.
Brandon Johnson, who this week pledged not cut a single penny from the Chicago Police budget, was pressed about his past statements that he supports redirecting police funds.
Johnson vows to promote existing officers to the position of detective raising questions about his plans to fill vacancies within the department.
Moderator Irika Sargent asked Johnson, “But are you committing then to hiring in addition to promoting?”
Johnson responded: “Of course.”
Paul Vallas, whose record as a school administrator in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans has faced scrutiny during the campaign, took more questions.
“Not only did we increase test scores in both language arts and math in Chicago for over six consecutive years and let me point out we only opened 15 charter schools,” Vallas said.
“But in Philadelphia over a period of nine years, including my six years that were there, we tripled math scores and doubled reading scores.”
The candidates were asked to react to comments made by Chicago Fraternal Order of Police Union President John Catanzara who told the New York Times 800 to 1,000 Chicago officers will leave the force if Johnson is elected mayor. Catanzara is also quoted predicting there would be “blood in the streets.”
The FOP has endorsed Vallas which Johnson was quick to raise.
After a bruising month-long runoff, the candidates got testy.
“I’ve actually been elected to make government work, not Paul,” Johnson stated. “He hasn’t and the fact that he’s being dismissive of a Black man that taught for four years in Chicago Public Schools, you’ve got to stop doing that, Paul. You do.”
“I’m criticizing his leadership ability and his lack of management competence. That’s what I’m questioning not his four years as a teacher,” Vallas slammed back. “When he retires he’ll actually retire with a teacher pension despite that he’s only been a teacher for four years.”
“And we’re going to retire you in four days,” Johnson responded.