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Meet the 'Defund the Police' Advocate Chicago Just Elected To Deal With Its Crime Spike

Chicagoans voted out Mayor Lori Lightfoot over surging crime. They replaced her with someone who called 'defund the police' a 'real political goal.'

Chicago mayor Brandon Johnson (D.) / Getty Images
April 5, 2023

The Windy City's politics blew leftward once again on Tuesday, with Chicago voters rejecting law-and-order candidate Paul Vallas in favor of soft-on-crime union organizer Brandon Johnson.

The election came after Chicago voters gave the boot to Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D.) in the first round of voting. While Chicagoans' number-one issue was "public safety," according to polls, they ultimately elected Johnson, who has called for defunding the police.

Johnson was the only candidate who did not support "hiring more police officers" or "filling the about 1,600 vacancies" in the Chicago Police Department, Block Club Chicago reported. Rather, he backs efforts to "dismantle systemic racism," erase a database of gang members, and "have health professionals, not police, respond to crisis calls."

The incoming mayor's crime platform is startlingly close to the current mayor's. Lightfoot also took office as a progressive criminal justice reformer, saying in 2019 that the city must "go to neighborhoods and provide supports to community, not just with law enforcement." In her failed reelection campaign this year, she emphasized providing "resources and services to address the root causes of violence" and employing mental health providers "to respond to 911 calls."

The city's homicide rate has jumped nearly 40 percent since Lightfoot took office in 2019, the watchdog group Wirepoints reported.

Lightfoot and Johnson also share a history of supporting the anti-police Black Lives Matter movement. "We've got to be bold" about reforming the police in response to BLM demands, Lightfoot declared during the 2020 George Floyd protests.

Johnson, meanwhile, has been unabashed in his support for the movement. In 2020, he came out swinging as an anti-police activist, saying the phrase "defund the police" is "an actual real political goal," speaking at a "town hall on a police-free future," and defending Black Lives Matter members who looted businesses. The looting, Johnson said, is just a response to "a failed racist system" of policing.

He went on to hand-wave the anguish of entrepreneurs whose businesses were destroyed by the looters, saying that "these companies have insurance."

Johnson during the election backtracked on his comments, saying, "I'm not going to defund the police." Both Lightfoot and Vallas scoffed at his claim, with Lightfoot saying that Johnson has "more bobs and weaves than Muhammad Ali."

Opposing the police is far from Johnson's only far-left talking point. The mayor-elect, who was endorsed by dozens of progressive labor unions, has called for enormous tax hikes on everything and everyone from airlines to hotels to tourists to real estate to "the suburbs."

The new revenue will go toward expanding "Social Impact Investing programs" and rectifying "mistakes of the past," Johnson's campaign declared.

Johnson, a former teacher and longtime teachers' union organizer, also blasted charter schools, which allow predominantly minority children to receive better education than in failing public school systems, calling the notion of school choice "a fallacy."

The mayor-elect's education policies are unlikely to help children in public schools, however, critics say. At a time when just 1 in every 20 black Chicago Public Schools students is proficient at math, Wirepoints reported, Johnson as a teacher "didn't offer any of the test prep" and didn't "issue a lot of homework for students," saying in an interview with the Democratic Socialists of America that "I don't think I ever gave a kid an 'F.'"

Wirepoints analysts blasted Johnson as "more extreme" than Lightfoot, wondering "how bad of a hit" the Windy City will take under the incoming mayor. After Johnson's mayorship, the group asked, will Chicago "be fixable, especially with all its debts?"