A victorious Brandon Johnson spreads his arms wide as he encourages his supporters to say “…now they know” along with him. --Screenshot from a television newscast
‘Now they know’
Johnson pokes nay-sayers, calls triumph historic
By Tim Hadac
In his victory speech Tuesday night in a ballroom at the Marriott Marquis on the Near South Side, Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson at times sounded like a humble public servant and at others like a self-styled national crusader for social justice.
“You know, they said this would never happen. So you know, if they didn’t know,” he said, encouraging his crowd of supporters to help him finish his signature campaign line, “now they know.”
(story continues below photo)
After the playful poke, Johnson pivoted from candidate to elected leader by extending an olive branch.
“The first thing I want to say is, to the Chicagoans who did not vote for me, here’s what I want you to know: that I care about you, I value you, and I want to hear from you,” he said. “I want to work with you, and I’ll be the mayor for you, too.”
Unofficial totals Tuesday night showed Johnson with 286,647 (51%) votes to 270,775 (49%) for opponent Paul Vallas, a former Chicago Public Schools CEO.
According to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, some 558,547 registered voters cast ballots, a 35.19% turnout. That is only a slight drop off from the Feb. 28 primary election, in which 566.973 registered voters cast ballots, a 35.85% turnout.
At the mayor-elect’s side were his wife, Stacie, and their three children—Owen, Ethan and Braedyn.
He tipped his cap to the organizations among his earliest and staunchest backers, most notably the Chicago Teachers Union, of which he is a longtime member and employee.
Currently a Cook County Board commissioner representing the First District, Johnson will presumably resign that elected office before he is sworn in as Chicago’s 57th mayor on May 15.
In his remarks Tuesday night, he said he plans to be mayor of all Chicagoans, “especially folks who have ever been on a payment plan,” as most of his audience laughed at the sideways slap at Vallas, who tried to make an issue of Johnson owing the city of Chicago $3,357 in unpaid water and sewer charges and additional $1,044 in unpaid traffic tickets from 2014 and 2015—despite the fact that Johnson earns an estimated $200,000 a year.
Johnson’s campaign was seen by many as a contest of national importance in the city long acknowledged as the de facto capital of the Midwest. Among those flying in to campaign for him were Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and others representing the left wing of the Democratic Party.
The mayor-elect alluded to that importance.
“We have ushered in a new chapter in our city,” he said. “Tonight is a gateway to a new future for our city—a city where you can thrive regardless of who you love or how much money you have in your bank account.
“A city where trains run on time, and where no one is too poor to live in one of the richest cities in one of the wealthiest nations at the richest time in the history of the world.”
He noted that his victory came on the 55th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and he linked his triumph to causes championed by the slain civil rights leader.
“The civil rights movement and the labor rights movement have finally collided,” he said. “We have experienced the dream of the greatest man who ever walked the earth.”
Race still plays a role
In some Southwest Side wards, many who headed to the polls voted along racial lines.
In the three Southwest Side wards with large black populations—the 16th, 17th and 18th–Johnson won in a landslide, with 18,720 (73%) to 6,894 (27%) for Vallas. The lopsided victory came despite endorsements of Vallas by 17th Ward Ald. David Moore and 18th Ward Ald. Derrick G. Curtis.
In the two Southwest Side wards with large white populations—the 13th and 23rd—Vallas won in a landslide, with 17,367 (80%) to 4,304 (20%) for Johnson.
A big question before the runoff election would be how Southwest Side Latinos would vote, especially in light of Johnson’s repeated claim of forging a mighty “black-brown” coalition reminiscent of Mayor Harold Washington’s power base in the 1980s.
But that claim did not hold up, at least on the Southwest Side.
In the four Southwest Side wards with Hispanic super-majorities—the 12th, 14th, 15th and 22nd—Vallas won with 10,060 (54%) to 8,561 (46%). That occurred despite Johnson having the all-out support of U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-4th), who controls the aldermanic seats in the 12th, 14th and 22nd Wards.
Just two Southwest Side aldermen were willing to weigh in publicly on Tuesday night.
“While the results were not what I had hoped for, the voters have spoken,” 23rd Ward Ald. Silvana Tabares told the Greater Southwest News-Herald. “I anticipate that Mayor-elect Johnson will see that governing is different than campaigning and [I] urge him to take a pragmatic approach to working with the newly-elected independent City Council.”
“This has been the closest mayoral race I’ve ever been involved in,” Curtis said early in the evening. “Whoever the next mayor is, I look forward to working with him to make the best decisions for our great city.”
Mayoral runoff by the numbers
Vallas 3,331 (59%)
Johnson 2,286 (41%)
Vallas 10,404 (82%)
Johnson 2,268 (18%)
Vallas 2,535 (59%)
Johnson 1,748 (41%)
Vallas 2,326 (53%)
Johnson 2,081 (47%)
Johnson 4,303 (81%)
Vallas 1,005 (19%)
Johnson 6,682 (81%)
Vallas 1,603 (19%)
Johnson 7,735 (64%)
Vallas 4,286 (36%)
Johnson 2,446 (57%)
Vallas 1,868 (43%)
Vallas 6,963 (77%)
Johnson 2,036 (23%)
Nine Southwest Side wards
Vallas 34,321 (52%)
Johnson 31,585 (48%)
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