Chicago has a new Mayor.
Union organizer and former teacher, Brandon Johnson, was elected as Chicago’s next mayor on Tuesday, succeeding Lori Lightfoot, who was the first Black woman to hold the position. In a close race, Johnson defeated the more moderate candidate former Chicago schools CEO Paul Vallas. With 51% of the vote, John tallied 286,647 votes. Vallas wasn’t far behind, pulling in 49% of the vote with 270,775 votes.
Brandon Johnson, who is Black, was largely unknown at the beginning of this race, now the 47-year-old Cook County commissioner will become Chicago’s 57th Mayor when the city is divided on key issues like education and crime.
As the new mayor of the third largest city in the country, Johnson will join the “Big 4” along with Black mayors of the three other largest cities, New York, Los Angeles and Houston.
During his acceptance speech, Johnson was ecstatic about his victory, telling the folks in attendance that he wants to take the city to new heights and wants to do that through the people.
“The truth is the people have always worked for Chicago,” Johnson said. “Whether you wake up early to open the doors of your businesses or wear a badge to protect our streets or nurse patients in need or provide childcare services, you have always worked for this city and now Chicago will begin to work for its people. All the people.”
He also told the crowd about his past, growing up in a poor family and then teaching at a school in the infamous former housing project Cabrini Green. To Johnson, it wasn’t a coincidence that he became Chicago’s new mayor on the anniversary of King’s assassination.
“Today the dream is alive,” Johnson said, “and so today we celebrate the revival and the resurrection of the city of Chicago.”
Johnson is also a former Chicago public school teacher and was endorsed by the Chicago Teachers Union.
After teaching middle and high school, Johnson helped mobilize teachers, including during a historic 2012 strike through which the Chicago Teachers Union increased its organizing muscle and influence in city politics. That has included fighting for non-classroom issues, such as housing and mental health care.
In a statement, the Union’s president praised Johnson’s victory.
“Today, Chicago has spoken. Chicago has said yes to hope; yes to investment in people; yes to housing the unhoused, and yes to supporting young people with fully-funded schools. It is a new day in our city.”
Former Mayor Lori Lightfoot congratulated Johnson on his victory.
“I congratulate Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson on his hard-fought runoff victory this evening, said Lightfoot in a statement. “It is time for all of us as Chicagoans, regardless of our zip code or neighborhood, our race or ethnicity, the creator we worship, or who we love, to come together and recommit ourselves to uniting around our shared present and future. My entire team and I stand ready to collaborate throughout the transition period. As always, I will continue to root for the city I call home, and to work toward more equity and fairness in every neighborhood. I am hopeful and optimistic that the incoming administration will carry forth our work to that end.”
In a statement sent to NewsOne, the African American Mayors Association also heartily congratulated Johnson on his big night.
“We are proud of Mayor-elect Johnson’s victory and AAMA plans to stand behind him and give him the support he needs as he works to tackle the most pressing issues of his city,” said Little Rock, Arkansas Mayor and AAMA President Frank Scott, Jr. “We are confident that Mayor-elect Johnson will work diligently to bring the city together during this pivotal time.”
“It has been a pleasure working with Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her staff during her service on AAMA’s Board of Trustees and we look forward to working with Mayor-Elect Johnson and his staff in the future,” said AAMA CEO Phyllis Dickerson.
Johnson won’t have too much time to bask in his victory. The new Mayor will take office next month and is to be sworn in May 15.
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