2023 Mayoral Candidates

Everything you should know about who ran to lead Chicago


On February 28, the voting citizens of Chicago filled the polling stations, waiting to participate in the 2023 Chicago mayoral election. There were nine candidates for this position – Brandon Johnson, Jesús “Chuy” García, Lori Lightfoot, Ja’Mal Green, Sophia King, Roderick Sawyer, Paul Vallas, Willie Wilson, and Kam Buckner. After the February 28 election, Paaul Vallas and Brandon Johnson received the highest percentages of the vote and so they will move on to a runoff on April 4. Below is everything you need to know about each candidate heading into the election. 

Parker students have taken note of the election. “The mayoral election is important to me because the person that we elect as the next mayor will have a direct impact on the life of every single Chicagoan,” junior and Parker Democrats co-head Benjamin Kagan said. “Even though I can’t vote, the policy choices made by our next mayor will undoubtedly impact my day to day life. I would strongly encourage more students to get involved in politics, because that is the best way for young people to ensure our voices are heard by those in power.”

Junior Krish Malhotra has always been interested in politics and believes in the eye-opening power of political discourse. “I’ve found that talking to candidates and to people around me has always helped to broaden my perspectives,” he said.

Parker students are concerned with a variety of issues in Chicago at the moment. “I feel that one of the biggest issues in Chicago is public safety, and I feel strongly that a number of the candidates have good plans to improve our city,” Kagan said. “Another really important issue is ensuring that our government enacts political reforms to decrease corruption.” 

“I think that the candidates will have a big job to do, and I feel like Chicago is in a state right now where we need someone different who will really push for change in a strict manner,” Malhotra said. “The issue that I think the candidates need to focus on is crime, since we’re starting to see it everywhere. I’ve seen a lot of issues under Lori Lightfoot’s administration with the way she’s handled crime in the city. Since crime affects the employment rate, it is losing the city money as well.”


Brandon Johnson: 


Brandon Johnson was elected as the Democratic member of the Cook County Board of Commissioners representing the 1st district in 2018. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Human Services, Youth Development Programming, and Management as well as a master’s degree in Teaching from Aurora University. Johnson was first a public school teacher at Jenner Academy in Cabrini-Green and then at Westinghouse College Prep on the West Side. He later became an organizer with the Chicago Teachers Union, defending neighborhood schools from privatization, reducing high-stakes standardized testing, and expanding access to state funding. As commissioner, he led efforts to pass the Just Housing Ordinance to prohibit housing discrimination against formerly incarcerated people, worked to eliminate the gang database, and secured legal representation for immigrants facing deportation. As Mayor, Johnson is committed to building a stronger, safer and more equitable Chicago. He wants safe neighborhoods, affordable housing, healthcare for all, fully-funded public schools, and access to mental health care. 


Jesús “Chuy” García: 


Jesús “Chuy” García is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois’s 4th district. He also served on the Cook County Board of Commissioners, the Illinois Senate, and the Chicago City Council. He has a B.A. in political science and a master’s degree in urban public planning and policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He ran for mayor in 2015, challenging the incumbent mayor Rahm Emanuel. García has worked extensively to fight for workers’ rights, universal health care, immigrant rights, and criminal justice reform. He introduced the New Way Forward Act, which is an immigration reform bill that would decriminalize unauthorized border crossing while maintaining civil deportation procedures. His public safety approach includes building a fully staffed, data-informed police department, investing in community intervention and preventative efforts, building stakeholder relationships, addressing long-standing inequities, and having transparency and accountability. He wants to address crime at its roots by investing in neighborhoods, reversing mental health cuts, and having more community-based violence interrupters. As Mayor, he will give working families a break on taxes and fees, get more housing people can afford, and add job training to give kids who don’t go to college a good-paying job. 


Lori Lightfoot: 


Lori Lightfoot, the incumbent, is the 56th mayor of Chicago. She has a BA in political science from the University of Michigan, and after earning her law degree from the University of Chicago Law School, she was a practicing attorney at the Mayer Brown law firm. She also was the Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. From 2015 to 2018, Lightfoot was on the Chicago Police Board and Task Force. In 2019, Mayor Lightfoot was elected with 73.7% of the vote in the runoff and became the first black LGBTQ+ woman to be elected mayor of any major city in the United States. She launched a debt relief pilot program as a part of her Fines and Fees Reform Initiative. This program provides a course for Chicagoans who are dealing with debt from administrative hearing violations. In her role as mayor, she has worked on police reform, has invested in mental health, public safety and environmental justice, and created a COVID-19 vaccination campaign. As Mayor, she will continue to invest in communities with her Safer Chicago Plan, create a more sustainable city, make Chicago a welcoming city for immigrants and refugees, and ensure that Chicagoans have access to safe, reliable and environmentally-friendly transportation options. 


Ja’Mal Green:


Ja’Mal Green is a community activist, actor and politician. He has participated in anti-police brutality events and in 2018, he founded Majostee Allstars, which is a nonprofit created to empower marginalized youth and encourage self-improvement through training, mentoring, and guidance. He protested against Chase Bank’s loan policy and fought to implement the Community Reinvestment Act. Green has also worked extensively with the Black Lives Matter Movement, advocating for the arrest of Jason Van Dyke for his murder of Laquan McDonald. Green raised tens of millions for small businesses around the country to help them during the pandemic, and, through his agency My Turn To Own (MTTO), he assists people with their goal of homeownership. In seven months, MTTO has facilitated over 10 million dollars in mortgages with 1800 first-time prospects. He is the youngest person to run for Chicago mayor. As Mayor, Green’s platform is focused on public safety, modernizing city government, economic development and climate change. 


Sophia King: 


Sophia King is a member of the Chicago City Council, currently serving as alderman from the 4th ward. She is also a member and chair of the City Council’s Progressive Reform Caucus. She has a bachelor’s from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master’s in education and social policy from Northwestern University. She was President of a non-profit organization called Harriet’s Daughters, which is dedicated to employment and wealth creation opportunities for African-American neighborhoods. King led efforts to increase the city’s minimum wage to $15, helped pass the Fair Workweek Ordinance and mandatory paid sick leave for employees, worked to add bid incentives for companies with a diverse workforce, and brought attention and resources to mental health. She also helped found the Ariel Community Academy to open the doors of educational opportunity. As Mayor, she is proposing the expansion of the Chicago police force, filling 1,600 vacancies and returning 1,000 retired officers to investigate non-violent crimes. 


Roderick Sawyer: 


Roderick Sawyer is currently a member of the Chicago City Council from the 6th ward, the Chairman of the Health and Human Relations Committee, and a member of the Progressive Reform Caucus. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Finance from DePaul University and a Juris Doctor from the Chicago Kent College of Law. Sawyer worked to propose an ordinance that would end Chicago Public Schools’ contract to station Chicago Police Department officers at schools. As alderman, he walked picket lines to support those seeking a living wage, participated in town halls and forums, and offered free space to community organizations. Sawyer has created a plan for Economic Development in Chicago to ensure that Chicago’s prosperity is shared across all 77 communities, which includes reducing and changing the TIF program, marketing and revamping lots, continued downtown development, and expansion of Small and Mid-sized Business Initiatives. As Mayor, one of the biggest issues Sawyer is working to combat is crime. 


Paul Vallas: 


Paul Vallas is the former CEO of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the School District of Philadelphia. Vallas has a bachelor’s degree in history and political science, a master’s degree in political science, and a teacher certificate. Vallas served as Chicago’s municipal budget director under Mayor Richard M. Daley from 1990 to 1993. During his time as CEO of CPS, he led an effort to reform the school system, which helped raise test scores, balance the budget, and institute several new programs such as mandatory summer school and after-school programs. Vallas has criticized the Lightfoot administration about their lack of accountability in the rise of crime and violence in the city. As Mayor, Vallas has promised to control crime through his public safety plan, ensure that all families have access to quality education options regardless of income of ZIP code, and put the city back on solid financial footing by making sound investment decisions and budgeting sustainably. Vallas has also promised to extend both the length of the school day and the school year. 


Willie Wilson: 


Willie Wilson is a businessman and politician. He ran for mayor in 2015 and 2019, ran for President in 2016, and for Senate in 2020. He received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Mt. Carmel Theological Seminary and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Chicago Baptist Institute International. Wilson served as the Chairman of the Governor’s Task Force on Fair Practices in Contracting. He has owned and operated multiple McDonald’s franchises, owns Omar Medical Supplies, and produced a gospel music television program called Singsation. He is also a philanthropist, donating $1 million of food and gas throughout Illinois, and supporting churches and community organizations. As Mayor, Wilson has promised to implement comprehensive, regulated grant programs for education, trade, and business recovery to help Chicago recover, to listen to citizens’ needs to create a new post-pandemic normal, and to work with agencies to address mental health going unchecked and an uprise in carjackings, murder, and crime. 


Kam Buckner: 

Kam Buckner serves as a Democratic member of the Illinois House of Representatives from the 26th district. He is the chair of the Illinois House Black Caucus. He earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He later earned a J.D degree from the DePaul University College of Law. In 2015, Buckner became the Executive Director of a nonprofit called World Sport Chicago. As a member of the Illinois House of Representatives, he played a role in the passage of the SAFE-T Act and legislation to transform the Chicago Board of Education into an elected school board. As Mayor, Buckner has promised to improve Chicago’s public safety, public education, equitable economic development and sustainable budgeting. He will invest in Chicago schools that need it most, have more consistency for students, and establish holistic programing. In order to stabilize Chicago’s finances, he will create a fiscally responsible administration that will attract more families and business. Buckner has said that he believes that together we can achieve a safer, more secure, and stronger Chicago where opportunity for all is the guiding principle.

Disclaimer: Kam Buckner did not attend the Chicago Women’s Mayoral Forum, which is why there is no photo of him.