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Greek American Paul Vallas Advances to Runoff for Mayor of Chicago

Paul Vallas Chicago
Paul Vallas on the campaign trail. Credit: Facebook/Paul Vallas

Greek American Paul Vallas will fight it out with Brandon Johnson to become the next mayor of Chicago after Lori Lightfoot lost her bid for a second term on Tuesday.

With an estimated 94 percent of ballots counted as of Tuesday night, Vallas had won 34 percent of the vote, and Johnson 20 percent. The runoff election will take place on April 4.

The contest for mayor is now narrowed to two candidates with starkly different views on policing and education, the New York Times reports.

Vallas has portrayed Chicago as being in a state of turmoil under Lightfoot’s leadership. With an endorsement from the local Fraternal Order of Police, he has run an aggressive campaign, arguing that he can make the city safer, calling for bolstering the police force, improving arrest rates for serious crimes and expanding charter schools.

Vallas: Chicago is in crisis

“The city clearly is in crisis and people want a crisis manager who can come in and focus on getting things done,” Vallas said after casting his ballot in an elementary school gym on the South Side on Tuesday.

“I haven’t been this happy since my son returned from Afghanistan,” Vallas told supporters.

He added: “We will make Chicago the safest city in America. … Public safety is the overriding issue, but we will not have true public safety in this city until the schools become part of the public safety solution.”

Johnson, 46, an educator who was endorsed by the Chicago Teachers Union, staked out a position to the left of Lightfoot, at one point suggesting that he agreed with the movement to reduce funding to police departments, though he later backtracked.

In 2019, Vallas ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Chicago, coming in ninth out of fourteen candidates in the first round. Afterward, Vallas endorsed Lightfoot in an election runoff election.

In June 2022, Vallas announced his second mayoral candidacy for the 2023 election, challenging Lightfoot.

Vallas headed Chicago schools from 1995 to 2001 and has served as superintendent for multiple other school districts in New Orleans, Bridgeport, Connecticut and Philadelphia.

The grandson of Greek immigrants, Vallas grew up in the Roseland neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. He spent his teen years living in Palos Heights.

He graduated from Carl Sandburg High School and attended Moraine Valley Community College and then Western Illinois University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in history and political science, a master’s degree in political science, and a teaching certificate.

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