Progressive Brandon Johnson wins Chicago mayor's race

Brandon Johnson will be the next mayor of Chicago, NBC News projected Tuesday, marking a stunning turn for a staunch progressive and former teacher whose campaign leaned into messages of racial and economic disparities and who overcame blowback over past comments about decreasing police funding.

Johnson defeated the well-financed, tough-on-crime moderate Paul Vallas, a former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools who promised to immediately bulk up the Chicago police ranks to curb a crisis of gun violence.  

Vallas told his supporters Tuesday night that he called Johnson and "told him I absolutely expect him to be the next mayor."

The victory caps a meteoric rise for Johnson, 46, a Cook County commissioner, an activist and a member of the Chicago Teachers Union, who in the first round of the mayoral race, held Feb. 28, had been polling in fifth place before he finished second, behind Vallas. 

In his victory speech, Johnson immediately gave a nod to the more than 270,000 people who did not support him.

“To the Chicagoans who did not vote for me,” Johnson said. “I care about you, I value you and I want to hear from you. I want to work with you. And I’ll be the mayor for you too.”

Johnson ran on a platform of taxing the wealthy to boost citywide services and investing in neighborhoods and schools across the city. He walked back past comments about slashing funding to police departments, saying that he wanted to bolster the ranks of detectives but that he also wanted to invest in mental health response services. 

In his remarks Tuesday night, Johnson leaned heavily into new beginnings, acknowledging his win came on the same day of the 55th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, saying it served as symbolism for a new Chicago.

“Today, we did not just acknowledge the assassination of a dreamer,” he said. “Today the dream is alive, so today we celebrate the revival and the resurrection of the city of Chicago.”

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