What is a runoff election? Chicago mayoral race breakdown

The votes are in, and as expected, there will be a runoff election for Chicago mayor.

To avoid a runoff election, one of the nine candidates needed to receive more than 50% of the vote by the time polls closed Tuesday. Paul Vallas came the closest with 34%. Brandon Johnson trailed him with 20%. 

Now, Vallas and Johnson will compete in a runoff election on April 4.

Incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot pulled 17% of voters and Congressman Chuy Garcia came in 4th with 14%. 


Lightfoot won her place in office in a runoff election against Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on April 2, 2019. 

She began her campaign for mayor in 2018, marking her first run for public office. Two-term incumbent Rahm Emanuel bowed out of the race leaving a crowded field of 14 candidates. Lightfoot beat Preckwinkle with more than 73% of the vote. 

Emanuel was elected mayor in 2011 with 55% of the vote. When running for reelection in 2015, he was challenged by Jesús "Chuy" García, who forced him into the city's first ever mayoral runoff.  Emanuel won reelection with 56% of the vote. 

If Lightfoot doesn't win, she would be the first incumbent Chicago mayor not to be elected to a second term in over three decades when Eugene Sawyer ran for reelection in 1989, but was beat out by Richard M. Daley. 

Incumbent Jane Byrne lost to Harold Washington in 1983. Four years earlier she had defeated incumbent mayor Michael Bilandic. 


Chicago's mayoral election has been non-partisan since the 1990s, prior to that there were Republican and Democratic primaries.

Veteran observers expect a number of aldermanic runoffs, as well. The second round of voting for aldermanic races would take place with the mayoral runoff on April 4.