Chicago is ready for change.
Before Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel even announced he wouldn’t seek re-election, a dozen people had already signed up to challenge him for the top spot.
The field to replace him is now one of the largest in the city’s history.
Today, Windy City voters will choose a mayor from 14 candidates in a field that includes some of the most well-known Chicago names of the last three decades.
Among the hopefuls are a former police superintendent, the city schools CEO, a federal prosecutor and a few millennials who all say that they are best-suited to run a city still reeling from major scandals in the police department and offices of some of Chicago’s most powerful aldermen.
If no one wins at least 50% of the vote on Tuesday – which seems likely, CNN affiliate WGN-TV reported – then the two candidates with the most votes will square off in a runoff on April 2.
On the ballot are:
- Bill Daley, former United States Commerce Secretary
- Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board president
- Garry McCarthy, former police superintendent under Emanuel
- Lori Lightfoot, former assistant US attorney
- Jerry Joyce, former Cook County state’s attorney
- Paul Vallas, former Chicago Public Schools CEO
- Gery Chico, former chief of staff to former Mayor Richard Daley
- Willie Wilson, business owner
- Susana Mendoza, former city clerk
- La Shawn Ford, Democratic member of the Illinois House of Representatives
- Robert Fioretti, former alderman
- Amara Enyia, community activist
- John Kozlar, attorney
- Neal Sáles-Griffin, CEO of the nonprofit CodeNow
Some candidates are hoping for ‘Daley fatigue’
Daley is arguably the most recognizable name in the bunch. The former US Commerce Secretary is the brother of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who after 22 years in office became the longest-serving mayor in city history. Their father, Richard J. Daley, was the city’s mayor for more than 20 years until his death while in office in 1976.
Daley’s campaign has raised roughly $5 million.
Richard Daley was credited for decades-long beautification and cultural projects that helped raise the city’s population while bringing in millions of tourists annually.
But the 13 other candidates also hope he’s remembered by many Chicagoans for leaving the city with a debt of about $700 million, something the city has been trying to overcome ever since. Chicago’s finances have been rebounding thanks in part to a large property tax increase put in place under Emanuel, but not before Moody’s Investors Service classified the city’s bond status as junk.
While Preckwinkle, Cook County Board president, hopes there’s enough “Daley fatigue” for voters to be leery of electing a third member of the same family to office, many Chicagoans also have grown tired of the corruption that continues to plague much of the city’s politics.
Some of that cronyism has recently put the once-possible frontrunner Preckwinkle on the defensive after a recent Chicago Tribune report that she hired the son of powerful old-school Alderman Ed Burke to a $100,000 a year job with the county. Burke, the longest-serving alderman in Chicago history, representing his South Side district for 50 years, was recently charged with attempted extortion after the FBI raided his offices in January.
Police reform remains a key issue
Emanuel’s former police superintendent, McCarthy – once a close confidant to the mayor while dealing with the city’s ongoing violence issue – hopes to succeed his former boss while running on the campaign slogan “Leadership. For a Change.”
Emanuel fired McCarthy as part of the fallout following the release of explosive police dashcam video that showed white police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014 while McDonald walked away from police. The video’s release led to widespread protests throughout the city and a federal investigation by the US Justice Department into civil rights abuses within the police department.
Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder late last year and recently sentenced to less than seven years in prison.
While all the candidates claim they are the right choice for continuing to reform the police department, former Assistant US Attorney Lightfoot has made holding abusive officers accountable for their actions a bedrock of her campaign. In the wake of the Laquan McDonald scandal, Lightfoot was appointed by Emanuel to head the newly created police accountability task force.
Many of the panel’s recommendations were similar to the findings in the US Justice Department report which found serious problems with the police department’s handling of racism within its ranks. Under Lightfoot, the city replaced its widely criticized police oversight agency with a civilian body designed to have much more oversight over officers and their supervisors.
With many of the candidates promising they would fire current Police Commissioner Eddie Johnson after taking office, Lightfoot claims such a move might do more harm than good as the city approaches the summer months, when hotter weather traditionally brings spikes in violence. In the month of January, the city recorded the fewest number of murders in nine years with 20 people killed, according to Anthony Guglielmi, chief communications officer for the Chicago Police Department.
Joyce, 49, is a former Cook County state’s attorney who claims he would confront the city’s ballooning billion-dollar pension deficits not by raising property taxes but rather by lucrative new revenue sources including legalized marijuana and a publicly owned casino.
Candidate pushes for legalized weed to grow revenue
Two other mayoral hopefuls are highlighting their backgrounds with the Chicago public school system as the experience needed to move the city forward as an educational and technology center. Vallas, the former CPS CEO ran the nation’s third-largest public school system for six years, earning praise from then-President Bill Clinton for helping turn around one of the most troubled school systems in the nation.
CNN’s Bill Kirkos contributed to this report.