Johnson’s victory marks the success of a campaign with its back against the wall from the start. In December, over 70 percent of Chicago voters had no opinion of Johnson; meanwhile, the top four vote-getters were Congressman Chuy Garcia, incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Vallas, and perennial candidate Willie Wilson.
But the Cook County Commissioner, labor organizer, and former social studies teacher steadily climbed the ranks. In February, Johnson edged out Lightfoot and Garcia, who both were seen as front-runners, to move on to a runoff against Vallas. After his victory, Johnson went on to gain endorsements from the likes of Jim Clyburn, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders. And now he has defeated Vallas.
The mayor-elect comes into office with an extensive background in the public education system and in labor organizing. In 2011, Johnson joined organizing efforts with the Chicago Teachers Union, contributing to the 2012 Chicago teachers’ strike that earned teachers a 17.6 percent pay rise over four years. The strike also reframed education reform efforts to speak more directly to student concerns: class sizes; funding for music, art, and physical education; paid teacher preparation time; and less standardized test emphasis.
While much of the race has been steeped in narratives and questions surrounding crime, Johnson has largely remained committed to a platform that aims to reimagine public safety.
“I’m grateful that there is so much hope that we can provide the city,” Johnson told TNR in January. “And to transform this city into a place where it’s safe for everyone … it’s very humbling to be in a moment where this could be a historical moment that people will look to for guidance as other cities look to do the same thing.”