Garcia says Lightfoot is 'hanging on to the leadership' that failed in Chicago during mayoral forum

It is still more than a month away but the race for Chicago’s next mayor is heating up.

The first day of early voting is now in the books – with 342 votes cast between both downtown early voting sites on Thursday.

As those eager voters hurried to the polls, all nine Chicago mayoral candidates squared off during a forum hosted by WCPT Radio on Thursday afternoon at the Morningstar Auditorium in the Loop.

They were divided into two groups, with the five candidates leading the polls going first.

The first group included Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Congressman Chuy Garcia, Paul Vallas, Willie Wilson and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson. The second group included Ald. Sophia King, State Rep. Kam Buckner, Ald. Roderick Sawyer and Ja'Mal Green.

Crime was one of the main focuses – and led to sparring between some opponents.

"The difference between my plan and the mayor's plan is that it recognizes that we need new leadership in the police department," said Congressman Garcia. "She's hanging on to the leadership that's proved to fail in Chicago."

"Congressman Garcia was the original ‘defunder.’ More recently, he said, ‘oh I'm not a defunder,’ but appeared at a rally with a bunch of defunders crawling about the fact that he sponsored a piece of legislation that would put not one more dollar into policing nationally," said Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Other topics at the forum included property taxes, jobs, and safety on the CTA.


Thursday evening, while all nine were invited, five candidates showed up for a community forum at New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church in Garfield Park.

"Pay attention to whose not here," said State Rep. Kam Buckner. "Empty seats, empty promises. Empty plans for our people."

The evening forum was hosted by the People's Unity Coalition – which is comprised of various community organizations.

Candidates took questions from representatives of community groups, including on the topic of housing.

"We need to cap property taxes on homeowners and renters," said Paul Vallas.

"Housing is a human right," said Ja’Mal Green. "We must make sure that we address this crisis in our city."

Another focus of Thursday night’s forum was reparations for victims tortured by former CPD Commander Jon Burge and his crew. All five candidates in attendance said they are committed to legislating those reparations.

Early voting is currently open at two downtown voting sites – the Voter Supersite at 191 N. Clark and the Election Board offices at 69 W. Washington, 6th Floor.

Voters choosing to vote by mail can drop ballots off at those same locations.

Early voting will continue seven days a week until election day.

Beginning on Tuesday, Feb. 13, residents can vote early at locations in all 50 wards.