As Chicago emerges from a pandemic, copes with fallout from civil unrest and addresses crime, the race for Chicago mayor in 2023 is shaping up to be hotly contested.
The Chicago Tribune is breaking down the list of those who say they will run, those still thinking about it and those who say they won’t. We will be updating this list as candidates make up their minds. You also can follow our coverage from our team of political reporters.
Candidate filing began Nov. 21. Election Day for the mayor’s race is Feb. 28. If no candidate receives a majority of votes in February, a runoff election will be held on April 4.
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Lightfoot formally announced via video message on Twitter June 7 what has long been anticipated, that she will seek a second term in office. She filed nominating petitions on Nov. 28, the last day to do so.
Originally from Ohio, Lightfoot attended the University of Chicago Law School before working as a federal prosecutor and for the firm Mayer Brown. She was tapped by then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel to head the Police Accountability Task Force following the police killing of Laquan McDonald. In her first-ever run for public office in 2019, Lightfoot ran for mayor as a political progressive and emerged from a 14-candidate field. During her first term, she has led Chicago through the COVID-19 pandemic and two rounds of civil unrest but also been criticized for not living up to her campaign promises, including pushing for an elected school board and making City Hall more transparent to the public.
Buckner, who made it official on May 12 that he’s running, grew up on the Far South Side and graduated from Morgan Park High School.
Buckner’s mother was a teacher at Louisa May Alcott Elementary School on the North Side and his father was a corrections sergeant at the Cook County Jail. Buckner earned a football scholarship to the University of Illinois. Following college, he worked for U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin in constituent services and also as press secretary for former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
He was appointed a state representative in 2019 for a district that stretches from the Gold Coast to South Chicago, though he’s been dogged by two DUI convictions.
Green came to prominence in recent years as a Black Lives Matter protester and as an outspoken critic of police violence. He also has launched a nonprofit to help people buy homes. In 2019, Green ran for mayor but failed to get on the ballot after business owner Willie Wilson’s campaign challenged his signatures, sparking what at times became a heated war of words.
Green announced his candidacy June 14.
A former teacher and onetime Chicago Teachers Union organizer, Johnson has long been a CTU favorite who received the union’s endorsement even before he formally declared his candidacy Oct. 27. Johnson won election to the Cook County Board in 2018 after defeating Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin in the Democratic Party primary. On the County Board, Johnson pushed a measure making it illegal to refuse to show or rent property to people with certain criminal records and also drafted a symbolic resolution that supported diverting money from policing in the wake of nationwide protests demanding police budgets be defunded.
Ald. Sophia King, a friend of former president Barack Obama, announced her run on Aug. 10.
King is a former school administrator and community volunteer who was appointed 4th Ward alderman by Mayor Rahm Emanuel after her predecessor resigned to take a job with Airbnb. In her time on the City Council, King is best known citywide for the renaming of a pair of high-profile streets. She unsuccessfully led a push to rechristen downtown’s Balbo Drive in honor of Ida B. Wells, the African-American journalist who worked to expose lynchings and pushed for women’s voting rights. Italian-Americans objected to renaming Balbo, a pilot who flew from Rome to Chicago in 1933 for the Century of Progress Exposition and who was an ally of Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini. As a compromise, aldermen renamed Congress Parkway downtown for Wells.
King also worked with Ald. David Moore to rename Lake Shore Drive to honor Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, the Black founder of Chicago, in 2021. Lightfoot vigorously objected to the plan and pushed several efforts to rename something other than Lake Shore in honor of DuSable but she got behind a compromise renaming the iconic road “Jean Baptiste Point DuSable Lake Shore Drive” rather than risk taking a total loss in the 50-member council.
King also helped push a minimum wage increase to $15 in 2019. The ethics board fined her husband, Alan, for improperly lobbying Emanuel, though the ethics board later vacated the fine.
Vallas is a longtime Chicagoan who became well-known in government circles in the 1990s as Mayor Richard M. Daley’s budget director and then the person Daley picked to lead Chicago Public Schools after Daley was given more control over the school system. Following his work at CPS, he was also head of public school systems for New Orleans and Philadelphia. He unsuccessfully ran against Rod Blagojevich in the Democratic primary for governor in 2002 and he ran for mayor in 2019 but came in ninth. Since losing the 2019 mayor’s race, Vallas has helped the Fraternal Order of Police with labor negotiations and criticized Lightfoot’s handling of crime.
Vallas announced June 1 he would make another bid for the city’s top job.
Best known for giving away millions of dollars to help strangers pay their bills or property taxes, Wilson made headlines in 2022 for giving away more than $2 million in free gas. In the past seven years, he’s also become much more active in politics. He’s run for mayor twice before and also ran for U.S. Senate and even made a quixotic bid for president in 2016. Wilson made his millions owning Omar Medical Supplies and several McDonald’s franchises after growing up in Louisiana and working as a sharecropper. His previous mayoral bids have garnered significant support from voters in majority-Black wards.
Since winning a congressional seat in 2018, Jesus “Chuy” García has grown his political power far beyond his Southwest Side base. The longtime progressive politician showed a practical side in recent years by building close ties with now-indicted former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, which helped expand García’s influence.
García considered running for mayor in 2019 but ultimately decided against a bid. He helped Lori Lightfoot become that year by endorsing her in the mayoral runoff against Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, whose leadership team he served on while on the county board.
This time, García recently acknowledged considering a run for mayor but has not made up his mind about entering the race. García pushed former Mayor Rahm Emanuel into the city’s first-ever runoff in 2015 and would potentially be a formidable candidate in 2023, but it’s not clear whether the progressive unions that supported him in that race would back him again over other alternatives. García would also need to find ways to appeal to Black voters.
García announced his candidacy Nov. 10.
A former head of the City Council Black Caucus, Sawyer holds a South Side seat that his father, Eugene Sawyer, held before becoming mayor after Harold Washington died. Sawyer’s a known pragmatist. He backed former Mayor Rahm Emanuel on many initiatives, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot tapped Sawyer to lead the Committee on Health and Human Relations and to be on her leadership team. Still, Sawyer and Lightfoot have at times had a fractious relationship as he has occasionally criticized her leadership style. He has had some political challenges, however, including being forced into a runoff by a little-known challenger in the 2019 race.
Sawyer confirmed his bid for the seat June 2.
Lopez has represented the 15th Ward — which includes neighborhoods such as Back of the Yards and Brighton Park — since 2015 and has made a name for himself as being a consistent critic of Mayor Lori Lightfoot and clashed with former Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Lopez grew up on the Southwest Side and used to work as a Southwest Airlines skycap. Most of Lopez’s criticism has focused on the issue of crime, rhetoric that has occasionally got him into trouble, such as the time he said he was thankful “that no innocent lives were lost” after a mass shooting in Brighton Park. If elected, he would be the first Latino Chicago mayor and first openly gay man in the office.
Lopez was one of the early announced challengers, but on Nov. 21, the first day of candidate filing, he announced he would instead run to retain his city council seat.
Prominent Wrigleyville Ald. Tom Tunney was considering entering the mayor’s race, which would have added another onetime Lightfoot ally to the field seeking to replace her.
Owner of Ann Sather restaurant in Lakeview, Tunney has at times clashed with the Ricketts family who own the Cubs over issues like night games, parking, hotel development, garbage pickup and stadium shuttles. Tunney handily won reelection in the 44th Ward in 2019 but had announced he wouldn’t seek to retain the seat in 2023.
He had supported Lightfoot in the 2019 runoff against Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, and Lightfoot rewarded him by selecting him to serve as her Zoning committee chairman. But most recently he voted against the mayor’s budget plan on Nov. 7.
Tunney had gone so far as to circulate nominating petitions for City Hall’s top job. But he confirmed on Nov. 11 that he would not file those petitions and mount a formal campaign.
Davis Gates has been a leader with the Chicago Teachers Union since Karen Lewis became CTU president in 2010. Originally from South Bend, Indiana, Davis Gates worked at Englewood High School as a history teacher but left the classroom in 2011 to become more involved with the union. She served as CTU political director before becoming vice president and has been an outspoken critic of Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
On May 20, CTU members elected Davis Gates union president by a wide enough margin to avoid a runoff in a three-slate race.
Davis Gates was said to be considering a run for mayor but announced on Aug. 22 that she’s happy where she is. In a speech to Chicago’s City Club, Davis Gates said she plans to continue as CTU president but would be supporting someone else.
“I am really honored to serve this city, because this union serves more than just its core membership,” she said.
In addition to her union duties, Davis Gates is chair of United Working Families, a quasi-political party that supports progressive candidates for public office.
Conway in his first bid for public office challenged Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx in 2020′s Democratic primary, but he lost. He previously worked as an assistant Cook County state’s attorney, served in the Navy and is an adjunct DePaul University professor. A graduate of the Latin School of Chicago in the Gold Coast, his father is a billionaire cofounder of the Carlyle Group, which has drawn criticism over the years for its defense contracting and was an issue for Conway when he ran against Foxx.
Conway has been critical of Lightfoot’s handling of crime, but he ultimately decided to run for alderman in the newly drawn 34th Ward.
Elected to lead Chicago’s FOP in 2020, Catanzara is no longer a Chicago cop after quitting the department in 2021 to avoid being fired over allegations he made numerous inflammatory statements on social media. During his time working for the Chicago Police Department, he amassed at least 35 complaints, many for personnel violations, has been suspended several times and twice been the subject of firing by police superintendents. Catanzara spent much of the past year unsuccessfully fighting with Mayor Lori Lightfoot over the city’s vaccine mandate, which he compared with the Holocaust.
Catanzara, who would’ve been a longshot as a candidate, told ABC-7 he would not be running for mayor and instead would focus on his re-election as union president, the network reported Aug. 8.
Duncan came to prominence in Chicago after being selected by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley to oversee Chicago Public Schools. He later was selected by President Barack Obama, whom he is friends with, to be the U.S. Secretary of Education. Duncan was frequently discussed as a potential challenger to Mayor Lori Lightfoot and he acknowledged his interest in running but he announced in March that he won’t run for mayor in 2023 because he wanted to focus on leading Chicago CRED, a nonprofit aimed at violence prevention. Duncan grew up in Hyde Park and played professional basketball in Australia.
A longtime North Side resident who has represented Illinois’ 5th Congressional District since 2009, Quigley has long been discussed as a potential mayoral candidate but he’s never run. In 2022, he spent $50,000 on a poll to gauge his chances against Mayor Lori Lightfoot and formed a local political campaign committee. In April, however, Quigley, announced he wouldn’t run. A member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence and also co-chair of the House Ukrainian Caucus, he said he wanted to focus on his work in Congress amid the war in Ukraine. He previously served as a Cook County commissioner.
Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who lost his 2014 campaign for reelection to Republican Bruce Rauner and has made term limits for Chicago mayors the main focus of his efforts in recent years, announced Nov. 17, 2022 that he would not run for mayor of Chicago.
“After much thought, I decided not to run for mayor of Chicago,” Quinn announced at a press conference.
A real estate developer and former Chicago Public Schools teacher, Ford has represented his state House district — covering parts of Chicago’s Austin neighborhood and portions of Berwyn, Brookfield, Forest Park, La Grange, La Grange Park, North Riverside and Oak Park — since 2006. In 2014, two years after being hit with fraud charges, Ford was sentenced to six months of probation on a misdemeanor tax count as a result of a plea deal with federal prosecutors who had brought 17 felony charges against him. A federal judge said she believed his failure to pay taxes was due to sloppy bookmaking, not criminal intent. He ran for mayor in 2019 but finished 11th.
The daughter of Holocaust survivors, Frydland worked in Chicago’s Law Department as head of the Building and License Enforcement Division, where she was responsible for enforcing building violations. Emanuel tapped her to lead the Buildings Department in 2015, where she led an overhaul of the building code. Frydland and Lightfoot faced criticism after a botched demolition in Little Village led a dust cloud to descend on the Southwest Side neighborhood. City officials issued fines to the company and its contractors and said the fault was on them for negligence. Frydland retired in 2020.
Before becoming 2nd Ward alderman in 2015, Brian Hopkins served as chief of staff to Cook County Commissioner John Daley and is the former director of the Illinois Coalition to End Homelessness. As alderman, he has been an outspoken critic of the scrap metal General Iron plant in Lincoln Park and a staunch supporter of the Lincoln Yards megadevelopment that generated controversy after former Mayor Rahm Emanuel promised more than a billion dollars in tax subsidies for the project. Hopkins, who represents parts of downtown, has criticized Mayor Lori Lightfoot for trying to take power from aldermen and not doing enough to prepare for civil unrest.