Chicago Votes for Change

Chicago’s mayor race has joined the growing list of evidence that Americans are unhappy about crime.

Lori Lightfoot, the incumbent, yesterday became the first Chicago mayor in 40 years to lose a re-election campaign. Lightfoot — a progressive in her first term — finished third in the initial stage of this year’s campaign, in which nine candidates were trying to qualify for a runoff in April. Lightfoot received only 17 percent of the vote, according to the latest count.

The runoff will be between Paul Vallas, a former head of the city’s school system who ran on a tough-on-crime message, and Brandon Johnson, a progressive county commissioner who previously worked as a teacher and union organizer. Vallas finished with 34 percent of the vote and Johnson finished second with 20 percent.

Crime in Chicago has surged since the pandemic began, with the number of major crimes 33 percent higher last year than in 2019. The murder rate has fallen from its 2021 peak but only modestly, and robberies and car thefts have kept rising recently. In a recent poll, nearly two-thirds of Chicago residents said that they felt unsafe.

“Chicagoans are genuinely frustrated by the state of the city, and crime is vastly overshadowing any other concerns,” Julie Bosman, The Times’s Chicago bureau chief, told me. “In a city known for its powerful leaders, it’s unsurprising that a lot of Chicagoans see this as Lightfoot’s failure. Many voters I’ve talked to see this mayoral race as a chance to reset.”

New York and Oregon, too

Crime has been a particularly vexing issue for progressive Democrats, both in Chicago and nationally. After police officers in Minneapolis murdered George Floyd in 2020, progressive activists and politicians called for both reforms to reduce police violence and reduced funding for police departments. Many of the proposed reforms — including body cameras and greater accountability for police misbehavior — are popular, but defunding the police is unpopular even among most Democratic voters, polls show.

It became more unpopular after crime began to soar during the pandemic. Across 27 cities that publicly report crime data, the murder rate last year was 34 percent higher than it had been in 2019, according to the Council on Criminal Justice.

Progressives have struggled to develop a persuasive response. Some have suggested that the crime increase is mostly a right-wing talking point, but the statistics say otherwise. And voters evidently agree with the statistics:

In New York City, Eric Adams won the mayor’s race in 2021 by focusing his campaign on crime. In the Democratic primary, he lost only one of the city’s five boroughs: Manhattan, the wealthiest.

In New York State last year, Republican candidates in the midterms focused on crime and did much better than usual. Democratic candidates often tried to change the subject. “I think those who stated, ‘Don’t talk about crime,’ it was an insult to Black and brown communities where a lot of this crime was playing out,” Adams said after the election. Nancy Pelosi told The Times’s Maureen Dowd that Democrats might have maintained control of the House of Representatives if the party’s candidates in New York had taken crime more seriously.

Republicans also fared well last year in Oregon, where the largest city — Portland — has become a symbol of post-pandemic disorder. Between 2019 and 2022, murders nearly tripled, vandalism incidents nearly doubled and car thefts rose 69 percent.

The Bass model

Karen Bass, the recently elected mayor of Los Angeles, has developed arguably the most successful progressive message on crime. A former community organizer who spent 12 years in the House of Representatives, Bass defeated a more conservative candidate not by downplaying crime concerns but by talking about them frequently. Bass herself was a burglary victim last year.

She has tried to strike a balance by calling for both the hiring of hundreds of additional police officers and tougher punishments for abusive officers. “We must stop crimes in progress and hold people accountable,” she said in her inaugural address. “Let me be so bold as to add that we can prevent crime and community violence by addressing the social, the health and the economic conditions that compromise a safe environment.”

The Chicago runoff will become the next test of whether a progressive message on crime can win in an overwhelmingly Democratic city. As was the case in Los Angeles, the more progressive candidate — Johnson — is Black, while the more conservative one — Vallas — is white.

In the past, Johnson supported calls to defund the police but he has tried to avoid the subject during the mayoral campaign. He has instead emphasized his plans to build more housing, expand pre-K and increase funding for social services. He is likely to portray Vallas as a conservative who is out of touch with Chicago. The local police union, whose top official is a Donald Trump supporter, has endorsed Vallas.

“No matter where you live, no matter what you look like, you deserve to have a better, stronger, safer Chicago,” Johnson said at his election night party last night.

As the chief executive of the Chicago schools, Vallas expanded the number of charter schools. As a mayoral candidate, he has focused overwhelmingly on public safety, calling it “a basic human right for Chicagoans,” and promising an expansion of the police force, and described the city as being in disarray. He is likely to emphasize Johnson’s previous support for defunding the police.

“We will make Chicago the safest city in America,” Vallas said last night.

Related: Read The Times’s coverage of the election, and see the results for all nine candidates.

Other politics news

The Supreme Court’s conservative justices seemed skeptical of President Biden’s plan to forgive student debt.

Ron DeSantis will soon visit Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire, another sign that he will run for president.

Republicans in Congress questioned military officials on money sent to Ukraine, signaling concerns over future aid.

Biden is betting government aid can revitalize semiconductor production in the U.S. and thwart a rising China.



Two trains collided in Greece, killing at least 36 people.

Bola Tinubu, the 70-year-old candidate of the governing party, won Nigeria’s presidential election. His opponents say the contest was rigged.

The biggest tank battle of the war in Ukraine so far was a defeat for Russia.

King Charles hosted an E.U. leader for tea on the day of a trade deal, upsetting critics who felt his behavior was too political.

An Israeli raid to capture Palestinian gunmen turned into one of the most violent encounters in the West Bank in decades, a Times video investigation shows.

A Mediterranean cruise ship has become a shelter for people displaced by the earthquake in Turkey.


A co-founder of Sam Bankman-Fried’s failed crypto exchange FTX pleaded guilty to criminal charges and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

Communities in the United States have pushed back against the spread of dollar stores.

Republicans are calling environmentally conscious investing “woke capitalism,” pulling businesses into partisan politics.

Twitter outages have risen as Elon Musk has slashed the company’s work force.

Other Big Stories

Many undocumented immigrants are leaving the U.S. after decades and returning to their countries of origin.

The police charged a 23-year-old man with murder over a sidewalk shooting in St. Louis. A witness captured the killing on video.


If Nigeria is to have a functional democracy, its people need radical transparency from election officials, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says.

Lebanon’s economic crisis has forced citizens to become bank robbers to access their own money, this video argues.

Labs that study viruses need to become more secure, David Wallace-Wells writes.


The Lion and the Hobbit: Discover where C.S. Lewis wrote.

Comfort zone: Eugene Levy hates traveling. That’s what makes his travel show work.

Advice from Wirecutter: Clean your air fryer every time you use it.

Lives Lived: Charles Pernasilice wasn’t supposed to be at the Attica Correctional Facility. But his temporary stay there coincided with the deadliest prison uprising in U.S. history, which would haunt him for the rest of his life. He died at 70.


Lawsuit: L.A. County agreed to pay Vanessa Bryant and her daughters nearly $30 million in a settlement over photos shared from the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash.

Jersey numbers: The Eagles are proposing to allow players to wear No. 0 again. It hasn’t been allowed since 1973.

A dwindling chance: LeBron James suffered a foot injury that could sideline him for weeks, a potential blow to the Lakers’ postseason chances.


The power of ‘Dark Side’

Mortality, madness and greed: On “The Dark Side of the Moon,” released 50 years ago today, Pink Floyd transformed grim subjects into indelible rock music.

The album’s sonic experimentation — the ticking clocks of “Time,” the soaring vocals of “The Great Gig in the Sky” — have had an enduring appeal. The record spent almost 14 years on Billboard’s Top 200 album chart, and it remains popular on streaming platforms. “‘Dark Side’ was an album that worked equally well to show off a new stereo,” the Times critic Jon Pareles writes, “or to be contemplated in private communion with headphones and a joint.”


What to Cook

Load up corn tortillas with spiced shrimp and red cabbage.

What to Read

A new biography shows Karl Lagerfeld to be more business whiz than artist.

What to Listen to

Five minutes that will make you love jazz piano.

Late Night

Stephen Colbert joked about Fox News hosts’ texts.

Now Time to Play

The pangram from yesterday’s Spelling Bee was jailbird. Here is today’s puzzle.

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Singer Simone (four letters).

And here’s today’s Wordle.

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

P.S. The word “geezerishness” appeared for the first time in The Times yesterday, in a review of John Sayles’s new novel.

Here’s today’s front page.

“The Daily” is about abortion pills.

Matthew Cullen, Lauren Jackson, Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti and Ashley Wu contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at [email protected].

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