Chicago mayoral election: New poll shows Vallas, Garcia as frontrunners

A new voter opinion survey finds Paul Vallas and Rep. Chuy Garcia leading the nine-candidate field for mayor of Chicago.  

The top two finishers in next month’s voting will compete in an April 4th runoff election.

And, despite spending several million dollars on campaign advertising in recent weeks, incumbent Lori Lightfoot has fallen to fourth place, behind teachers union staffer Brandon Johnson.

Pollster Matt Podgorski, of the political consulting firm M3, said, "The big takeaway that we saw is that Chuy Garcia and Paul Vallas basically flip-flopped spots. Now I’ve got Paul Vallas in first place with 26% and Chuy Garcia in second with 19%."

Garcia’s been the target of a negative attack ad aired by Lightfoot this month. 


The West Side congressman has not yet begun airing TV commercials of his own. A leader of Garcia’s campaign told FOX 32 Chicago News that once Garcia goes up on the air, he plans to stay up through Feb. 28, the day first-round votes will be counted by the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

Johnson, whose campaign relies heavily on cash from the teachers union, appears to have benefited from an aggressive schedule of paid media. He surged from just 3.2% in M3’s December survey to 12.2% this week. 

Mayor Lightfoot’s campaign spending did not stem a decline in support found by the survey. She fell from 14.5% in December to single digit territory this week: 9.8%.

Multi-millionaire businessman Willie Wilson also lost ground in the M3 poll. Wilson had 13.1% in December; 8.5% this week.

The M3 survey was conducted Jan. 15-17, prior to Thursday night’s mayoral debate. A total of 531 likely voters participated, including 49 who completed a Spanish-language version of the questions. It is accurate to within plus or minus 4.25 percentage points.

A spokesperson from Lightfoot's campaign attacked the survey calling the race "complicated." 

The Vallas campaign says the poll proves what they already knew. 

"Paul's message of putting crime and Chicago's safety first is clearly resonating with the voters and our campaign has the financial resources and support necessary to continue driving that message home over the next six weeks," said Vallas campaign chief strategist Joe Trippi.

Mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson released a statement, saying: "The people of Chicago are ready for new leadership and we’re proving there is a better way forward…The city has turned the page on Mayor Lightfoot and business-as-usual politics. It’s time to move Chicago forward and usher in a new dawn of people-first policies."

Candidate Willie Wilson also released a statement, calling the poll "garbage."

The M3 pollster defended the integrity of the results based on how the likely voters were selected. 

"All likely voters in the city of Chicago, had an equal chance of being contacted. The response group was carefully balanced by race, region, gender, age, language, and even how they voted in 2020 for President," Podgorski said.

Political Editor Mike Flannery's Analysis

With Paul Vallas in first and Chuy Garcia second, they would currently be most likely to compete in the two-person, April 4th runoff election.

"The big takeaway we saw was that Chuy Garcia and Paul Vallas basically flip-flopped spots," Podgorski said.

In a survey done earlier this week before Thursday night's debate, Vallas had 26%, Congressman Garcia 19%, veteran teachers union staffer Brandon Johnson 12.2%, with Mayor Lightfoot falling to 9.8% in fourth place.

While the mayor's negative attack ad may have contributed to Garcia’s loss of nearly nine percentage points since last month, it apparently hasn't helped her. Lightfoot's lost nearly five percentage points since last month's M3 survey.

"We now see Brandon Johnson surging in in third place with 12%, while stunningly the incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot has dropped all the way down to fourth place," Podgorski said. "In fact, in the survey, we specifically asked have you seen, read or heard any information about the candidate recently and those that said ‘yes,’ she was underwater by 30% in terms of how that influenced their opinion of her."

Lightfoot may have been damaged by last week's revelation that her campaign made inappropriate attempts to recruit students and faculty in both the public schools and city colleges.

Vallas celebrated these results, pushing them out to supporters in an email. Mayor Lightfoot, not so much. A spokeswoman called the poll deeply flawed — a claim rejected by Podgorski.

Fox 32 Chicago will host a Mayoral Forum on Thursday, Feb. 9.

Full details on the survey can be found in the PDF below: