By Manny Meraz and Brian Chan
Paul Vallas kisses his wife, Sharon, Tuesday night as he conceded the Chicago mayor’s race to Brandon Johnson. (Photo/Manny Meraz)
After holding a 13-percentage point lead in the general election, Paul Vallas lost the 2023 Chicago mayoral runoff to Brandon Johnson Tuesday night in one of the closest races the City of Chicago has seen in decades.
Johnson earned 51.4% of the vote 48.6% for Vallas. Johnson led by nearly 16,000 votes when Vallas stepped to the podium shortly after 10 p.m. to concede the race. It was an unexpected result for many, as Vallas had a dominant lead over the progressive Johnson in the Feb. 28 general election.
The Chicago Board of Elections reported that more than 91,000 mail-in ballots were issued, but Vallas decided to concede anyway. The Chicago Board of Elections expected half of those mail-in ballots to return by the the April 3 postmark and would be counted over the next several days. The Associated Press called the race for Johnson shortly before Vallas conceded.
“It is clear based on the results tonight that the city is deeply divided,” Vallas said. “I called Brandon Johnson and told him that I absolutely expect him to be the next mayor of Chicago. It’s critically important that we use this opportunity to come together.”
Willie Wilson, a Chicago businessman and a former candidate for mayor of Chicago, endorsed Vallas after Wilson finished fourth in the general election. Wilson attended Tuesday night’s party and said, “I understand that there are 91,000 mail-in votes,” adding how those 91,000 votes can favor Vallas.
“I wish the results were different,” Wilson said.
Slideshow: Highlights from the runoff events
Wilson added that he advocated for Vallas because of “taxes, and [Vallas not wanting to] defund the Chicago Police Department.”
Vallas supporter Sheila Owens described the loss to Johnson as “unbelievable” after Vallas held a lead early Tuesday night.
With Johnson’s victory, it is now yet to be seen whether Chicago Fraternal Order of Police president John Catanzara’s predictions of a mass exodus of 800-1000 officers and warnings of “blood in the streets” will come to fruition. Vallas, who comes from a CPD family, was strongly supported by the police union while the powerful Chicago teacher’s union supported Johnson.
During his speech, Vallas called on the city to band together in support of Johnson.
“This campaign that I ran to bring the city together would not be a campaign that fulfilled my ambitions if this election is going to divide us more,” he said. “So it’s critically important that we use this opportunity to come together. And I’ve offered him my full support.”
The Red Line Project’s Brian Chan captured Vallas as he greeted supporters Tuesday night at the Hyatt Regency