Paul Vallas, a former schools chief, qualifies for Chicago mayoral runoff

Paul Vallas, the former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, will be on the ballot in the April 4 runoff for Chicago mayor.

Data from the city’s Board of Elections has not yet made it clear who among the eight other candidates, including Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot, might get the second spot in a race centered on the city’s crime. Lightfoot is battling with Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, a union organizer who’s spoken in support of “defunding” police and is backed by the Chicago Teachers Union, for second place.

Vallas won the endorsement of Chicago’s conservative Fraternal Order of Police and faced accusations from his rivals of being a Republican despite declaring himself a Democrat.

Lightfoot, who was trailing in many polls ahead of the election, attracted a tremendous amount of criticism over how she operated in City Hall.

Vallas has also been a school administrator in New Orleans and Philadelphia, and unsuccessfully campaigned for Illinois governor in 2002. When he didn’t qualify for the Chicago mayoral runoff in 2019, he endorsed Lightfoot.

Before Vallas took the lead, it was Democratic Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who pushed then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel into a runoff in 2015, who was expected to be Lightfoot’s biggest threat. But Garcia started his campaign late so he could first win reelection to Congress in the November midterms. That delayed his fundraising and put him weeks behind with getting on TV.

One candidate, Democratic Illinois state Rep. Kam Buckner conceded Tuesday night after registering in the single digits.

“Tonight, I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished in this campaign for a safer and more just Chicago,” he said in a statement.

This is the city’s third runoff in the 24 years since Chicago started holding nonpartisan elections.

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