Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson has officially joined the race for mayor of Chicago.
Johnson, who has lived in Austin for more than a decade, announced his candidacy Thursday at Seward Park in Cabrini-Green, near Jenner Academy Elementary School, where he began his teaching career.
He was joined by more than 100 supporters, including colleagues from the Chicago Teachers Union; Aldes. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa; and State Representative Delia Ramirez.
Johnson said he was humbled and humbled by the support he received when he made the decision to join a crowded group to challenge incumbent Lori Lightfoot in the Feb. 28 election.
Johnson represents the 1st District of Cook County, which covers parts of Austin, Garfield Park, Near West Side, Oak Park, Maywood, Forest Park, Broadview and Bellwood. Before being elected in 2018, he was a Chicago public school teacher and worked for CTU under Karen Lewis.
Johnson mentioned Austin in his speech as one of the “most dynamic neighborhoods” but also one of the most violent. He lives there with his wife, Stacie, and their three children who attend CPS.
“Just recently we had to change one of the windows in our kids’ bedroom because of one of the bullets that came through our window. That’s the reality,” Johnson said.
During his announcement speech, Johnson cited public safety as the city’s biggest issue and promised to take preemptive action to reduce violence.
“We need treatment, not trauma. We need to invest fully in health care, in social housing, green jobs and invest fully in our neighborhood schools,” he said. “It’s violence prevention.
Austin’s history of divestment has influenced its fight for fairness and justice, Johnson said, adding that he will focus on the neighborhood in ways that Lightfoot failed to.
“We are strongest when we work together, and because this mayor has ignored the experts — the expertise, as well as the experiences, of community members like my neighbors in Austin — that’s why we’re not going into the right way. That’s why people don’t feel safe.
Johnson said he plans to “set up shop” in Austin during his campaign. He said he will organize meetings and also engage with the community there.
“I’m going to react and respond and go where people in Austin ask me and need me, so definitely we’re going to go down to Austin.”
Austin residents are what make the neighborhood so beautiful, especially seniors, Johnson said. He mentioned Roberta Wilson and Lillian Drummond as his “screams”. Another of his loves – the MacArthur restaurant.
“I really like the dressing in the mac and cheese at MacArthur’s,” he said.
If elected, Johnson will be the first mayor in Chicago history to live in Austin. “How cool is it going to be?” says Johnson.
Lightfoot’s campaign aimed to portray Johnson as a one-note candidate, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“There’s no shortage of ambitious politicians trying to advance their own careers right now, and we’ll be showcasing Mayor Lightfoot’s progressive accomplishments against Brandon Johnson’s slim resume any day of the week,” the official said. Lightfoot camp in a statement. “In Johnson’s case, his campaign rests on one platform and one only: to defund the police department entirely. It’s easy to talk about what you would do — it’s another thing to be in the arena, to do the work every day to move our city forward.
Johnson told the Tribune that such comments are “typical of the mayor. She has a very narrow view of the world, doesn’t understand that my job predates the fact that I just served as Cook County Commissioner.
He cited his time as a teacher and organizer at CTU, where he worked on the successful campaign to bring an elected school board to Chicago, to raise funding for the CPS and the 2012 strike. Lightfoot’s Response “shows you how disconnected she is from the workers… (and) the fact that she is intimidated by the work. And that’s why his working day is going to end in a few months.
Johnson just received a $1 million contribution from the American Federation of Teachers in addition to an earlier donation of $125,000 from the group’s Illinois affiliate, the Sun-Times reported. CTU also contributed to Johnson’s campaign.
Johnson is the eighth black candidate for mayor to join the race, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. He joins Lightfoot; outgoing City Council members Sophia King (4th) and Roderick Sawyer (6th); State Representative Kam Buckner (D-Chicago); millionaire businessman Willie Wilson; community activist Ja’Mal Green; and Chicago Police Officer Frederick Collins.
Former CPS CEO Paul Vallas and Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) is also in the running.