Ruby Thompson

Ald. Sophia King, a candidate for mayor, speaks during the Mayoral Candidate Forum held at Lane on Jan. 15.

The Great Race for Mayor of Chicago

Published Feb. 14, 2023

It has been almost four years since Chicago’s incumbent mayor, Lori Lightfoot, won the mayoral seat in a run-off election against former candidate Toni Preckwinkle back in April of 2019. During her time in office, Lightfoot has seen the city of Chicago through four years of a global pandemic, political protests and riots, teacher strikes and much more. But now, democracy will do what it must, as it is time again for Chicago residents to cast their votes for the next mayor.

Voting for the 2023 Chicago Mayoral Election will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 28. The election process is fairly straightforward: one of the nine mayoral candidates has to receive a majority of votes in order to be elected Chicago’s next mayor. 

However, if no candidate wins a clear majority of votes then a subsequent runoff election will be held on Tuesday, April 4. 

Even though city residents will not cast their vote for two weeks, the spirit of democracy and election day can be felt all over the city. In the past few weeks the competition amongst the candidates has been heating up. 

The Lane building has even played a pivotal role in the upcoming election, with the 47th Ward Democrats hosting a mayoral forum inside the school’s auditorium. All nine mayoral candidates: Kam Buckner, Chuy Garcia, Ja’Mal Green, Brandon Johnson, Sophia King, Lori Lightfoot, Roderick Sawyer, Paul Vallas and Willie Wilson, were in attendance.

The forum generated a large audience with some Lane faculty and students even being in attendance. Throughout the actual forum the candidates answered around five questions that were hand-picked out of questions that 47th ward residents had submitted while registering for the event. 

Lane contains one of the largest senior classes in Chicago. Many of these seniors are now of voting age or will be eighteen before the election, meaning that a lot of Lane students have the power to determine the fate of our city for the next four years.

However, getting city residents, especially students, to vote in local elections can prove to be extremely difficult. The 2019 mayoral election only saw a 32% voter turnout, which was one of the lowest voter turnouts in the history of Chicago municipal elections. 

Though many seniors at Lane aren’t fully informed about issues concerning the current mayoral candidates or their platforms, many students do have an idea of what they’re looking for in a candidate and the changes they want to see made by Chicago’s next mayor.   

Some seniors, such as Lydia Crabbe, do know that incumbent mayor Lori Lightfoot is running for re-election and the tiny bits of controversy surrounding the incumbent mayor’s campaign.

“I know that there’s a lot of tension between her and CPS. I know that middle class, especially white middle class Chicagoans, are unhappy with her. That’s about it,” Crabbe said.

Students are looking forward to what the new candidates will bring to the table and want to see a clear agenda from candidates when it comes to tackling the current issues that the city faces.

“Well first of all I think a lot of the school funding has been kind of bad, because I’ve seen schools get shut down, and I’ve seen resources being taken away from a lot of programs, especially in the arts,” Crabbe said. “I think especially in the South and West sides, there isn’t a lot of attention to making communities feel like communities. I also know that the spread of things like grocery stores is pretty low over there, and the fact that we do spend a lot of money putting police to police those [neighborhoods], and I think that should be switched up.”

Policing has been a real hot-topic issue in this upcoming mayoral election. Senior Jules Guerca, and Grayson Hess said they want to see the topic of policing be addressed by the candidates too.

Guerca, whose father is a Chicago police officer, has had many conversations first-hand about policing within their family. Being a person of color themself, Guerca finds the overall issue of policing to be interesting.

“My dad is a police officer, so I feel like I hear a lot about that firsthand, and especially coming from a POC household, it’s just an interesting topic because it mainly affects marginalized communities,” Guerca said.

Hess is really looking forward to the upcoming election, stating that he is “excited to get to finally voice [his] opinions on local politics.” Hess has a varied list of issues that he would like to see confronted by the candidates. 

“I’d like to see some focus on the minimum wage, especially living in a city like ours that has its benefits, but the cost of living is really still quite high,” Hess said. “I know they just increased it to $15.40, but I’d want to see it meet inflation and let people actually be able to live off of it. I’d also like to see some prioritization on education as that has been a recurring problem in the city. It doesn’t necessarily have to be more money, but a better distribution of it to all parts of the city would be heavily beneficial to communities with struggling schools.” 

Hess has a list of other topics that he wants to see candidates focus on. 

“We got reproductive rights advocacy, giving people with drug problems help instead of jail and [dis]proportionate amount of police in different neighborhoods,” Hess said.

Despite all the different issues and topics that students across Lane, especially those of voting age, want to see covered in this mayoral election, one thing seems to be a common theme amongst voters: they don’t want words, they want action.

Hess said he is tired of waiting around and seeing no change within the city of Chicago from its leaders.

“These are things I have seen stagnant my whole life living in this city — besides reproductive rights, they got that in the bag here but I’d like to see some change and not just some talk,” Hess said. “I’d like to see some action, not some promise of action, and then no results.” 

In order to solve the problems that the city faces, Guerca said they believe the first step is acknowledgement. With issues such as gentrification in neighborhoods, which is of interest to Guerca, they said that acknowledgement on behalf of the candidates would be a step towards tackling this issue.  

“At least acknowledging it,” Guerca said. “Because there’s a lack of acknowledgement for that. More so than fixing it, I think there needs to be first acknowledgement.”

Meanwhile, Crabbe would be persuaded to support a candidate in this upcoming election if they have a solid plan to start resolving the issues that our city faces.

An actual plan or diagnosis of whatever they want to tackle, or I don’t know. I don’t want vague promises of like ‘We are gonna fix this.’ I would rather see them … give us a sort of sense of their direction in more practical terms,” Crabbe said.

Crabbe went on to explain that she sees a trend of figures — like Lightfoot and President Joe Biden — making vague promises. However, she said that all she wants is a candidate willing to truly tackle the issues at the city’s doorstep.

“One thing I noticed is Lori [Lightfoot] and definitely Biden have been giving vague sort of general promises,” Crabbe said. “I don’t know if that’s to safeguard their own tactics or appeal to their voters, but I would have a lot more confidence in a candidate if they actually explained their rationale behind what they are going to do, and gave clear and thought out steps to how they will tackle issues.”

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