Brandon Johnson was elected Chicago mayor on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press, defeating Paul Vallas in a runoff between two Democrats to take over a city grappling with crime, an issue that dominated the race after incumbent Lori Lightfoot was eliminated in February.
Johnson, a 47-year-old Cook County Commissioner, becomes the 57th mayor of the third-largest U.S. city.
Vallas and Johnson squared off in the runoff election after Lightfoot, also a Democrat, finished third out of nine candidates in the previous round when no one managed to cross the 50% line.
The nonpartisan race in the heavily left-leaning city was a test for Democratic messaging on policing in the U.S., three years after widespread protests following the police murder of George Floyd. Republicans sought to bludgeon Democrats over the issue in the 2022 midterm elections.
Vallas called for more police officers, while Johnson suggested more mental health support and opportunities for young people.
Johnson will inherit a city in which the number of murders since 2018 has increased by 20%. In 2021, there were 804 murders, the most in a quarter-century. Car thefts have doubled and other types of theft have risen by a quarter over the last five years.
Lightfoot, the first Black woman and first openly gay person to serve as the city’s mayor, had been bidding for a second four-year term. But her handling of crime and a series of crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, racial justice protests, and a protracted teachers’ strike, sapped her support.
Johnson, a former Chicago teacher and union organizer, says he will promote 200 new detectives from the existing pool of police officers. He also wants to strengthen police accountability.
On day one, the winner will have a variety of other issues to address, including a struggling public school system, the city’s fiscal woes and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic that closed many businesses and offices.