The race for Chicago mayor in 2023 is expected to be fiercely contested as the city deals with the aftermath of civil unrest, a pandemic, and crime.
The filing period for candidates started on November 21. The mayoral election is on February 28. A runoff election will be held on April 4 if no candidate wins a majority of votes in the first round of voting in February.
Official Mayoral Candidates:
Lori Lightfoot, 56th Mayor of Chicago
Lightfoot formally announced her intention to run for a second term in office via video message on Twitter on June 7. Lightfoot, who is originally from Ohio, attended the University of Chicago Law School before working as a federal prosecutor and for the law firm Mayer Brown. In 2019, Lightfoot ran for mayor as a political progressive in her first-ever run for public office, emerging from a 14-candidate field. During her first term, she oversaw the COVID-19 pandemic and two rounds of civil unrest in Chicago.
Kam Buckner, State Representative for the 26th District
Buckner, who announced his candidacy on May 12, grew up on the Far South Side and attended Morgan Park High School. Buckner attended the University of Illinois on a football scholarship. Following college, he worked in constituent services for U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and as press secretary for former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. He was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 2019 for a district that stretches from the Gold Coast to South Chicago.
Ja’Mal Green, Community Activist
Green rose to prominence as the Black Lives Matter activist and outspoken critic of police brutality. He has also founded a charitable organization to assist people in purchasing homes. Green ran for mayor in 2019 but did not get on the ballot after business owner Willie Wilson’s campaign challenged his signatures, sparking a heated debate. Green declared his candidacy on June 14.
Brandon Johnson, Cook County Commissioner for the 1st District
Johnson, a former teacher, and former Chicago Teachers Union organizer, has long been a CTU favorite and received the union’s endorsement. He formally declared his candidacy on October 27. After defeating Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin in the Democratic Party primary, Johnson was elected to the Cook County Board in 2018. Johnson pushed a measure on the County Board that made it illegal to refuse to show or rent property to people with certain criminal records.
Sophia King, Alderman for the 4th Ward
Barack Obama’s friend and alderwoman, Sophia King, declared her candidacy on August 10. Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed King, a former school administrator and active member of the community, to the position of 4th Ward alderman. King’s renaming of two prominent streets during her time on the City Council has made her the most well-known figure in the entire city. King also supported the 2019 $15 minimum wage increase.
Paul Vallas, Former CEO of Chicago Public Schools
Longtime Chicagoan Vallas gained recognition in the public eye during the 1990s as Mayor Richard M. Daley’s budget director and later as the candidate, Daley chose to lead Chicago Public Schools. He also oversaw the public school systems in Philadelphia and New Orleans after his time at CPS. In the Democratic primary for governor in 2002, he lost to Rod Blagojevich, and in the 2019 election for mayor, he finished ninth. On June 1, Vallas declared he would submit a second application for the position of mayor.
Willie Wilson, Businessowner and Previous Mayoral Candidate
Wilson made headlines in 2022 for giving away more than $2 million in free gas. Wilson is best known for giving away millions of dollars to help strangers pay their bills or property taxes. He’s run for mayor twice before, as well as for the U.S. Senate and even for president in 2016. Wilson made his fortune after growing up as a sharecropper in Louisiana and owning Omar Medical Supplies and several McDonald’s franchises.
U.S. Rep. Jesús ‘Chuy’ García
Jesus “Chuy” García’s political influence has expanded significantly since he was elected to Congress in 2018, far beyond his Southwest Side constituency. García thought about seeking the office of mayor in 2019 but ultimately decided against it. By supporting Lori Lightfoot in the runoff for mayor that year, he contributed to her success. This time, García recently acknowledged thinking about running for mayor but has not decided whether to do so. On November 10, García declared his candidacy.
Roderick Sawyer, Alderman for the 6th Ward
Sawyer, a former City Council Black Caucus leader, now represents the South Side seat that his father, Eugene Sawyer, held before becoming mayor after Harold Washington died. Sawyer is a well-known pragmatist. He supported former Mayor Rahm Emanuel on several initiatives, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot appointed Sawyer to chair the Committee on Health and Human Relations and to serve on her leadership team. Sawyer announced his candidacy for the seat on June 2.
Candidates who have withdrawn from the race:
Raymond Lopez, Alderman for the 15th Ward
Lopez has represented the 15th Ward since 2015 and has established himself as a vocal critic of Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Lopez grew up on the Southwest Side and used to work as a skycap for Southwest Airlines. If elected, he would be Chicago’s first Latino mayor and the city’s first openly gay mayor. Lopez announced that he would instead run for re-election to his city council seat.
Tom Tunney, Alderman for the 44th Ward
Wrigleyville’s prominent Alderman, Tom Tunney, was considering running for mayor, which would have added another former Lightfoot ally to the field of candidates seeking to replace her. Tunney easily won reelection in the 44th Ward in 2019 but has stated that he will not run for reelection in 2023. He had backed Lightfoot in the 2019 election, and she rewarded him by naming him chairman of her zoning committee.
Stacy Davis Gates, President of the Chicago Teachers Union
Davis Gates has been a Chicago Teachers Union leader since Karen Lewis became president in 2010. Davis Gates was a history teacher at Englewood High School before leaving in 2011 to become more involved with the union. She was the CTU’s political director before becoming vice president, and she has been a vocal opponent of Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Davis Gates was rumored to be considering a run for mayor, but she announced on August 22 that she is content with her current position.
Bill Conway, Portfolio Manager
Conway ran against Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx in the Democratic primary of 2020, but he was unsuccessful. He served in the Navy, worked as an assistant state’s attorney for Cook County, and is an adjunct professor at DePaul University. His father is a multibillionaire cofounder of the Carlyle Group and a graduate of the Latin School of Chicago on the Gold Coast.
John Catanzara, President of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7
Catanzara, a former Chicago police officer, was chosen to lead the FOP in Chicago in 2020. Catanzara fought with Mayor Lori Lightfoot for the majority of the previous year ineffectively over the city’s vaccination requirement, which he compared to the Holocaust. The network reported on August 8 that Catanzara, who would’ve been a long shot as a candidate, informed ABC-7 that he would not be running for mayor and would instead concentrate on his reelection as union president.
Arne Duncan, Former U.S. Education Secretary and Head of Anti-Violence Nonprofit
Duncan rose to prominence in Chicago after being appointed as superintendent of Chicago Public Schools by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley. He was later appointed as the United States Secretary of Education by President Barack Obama, with whom he is friends. Duncan expressed interest in running for mayor in 2023, but he announced in March that he instead will focus on leading Chicago CRED, a nonprofit dedicated to violence prevention.
Mike Quigley, U.S. Congressman for the 5th District
Quigley is a longtime resident of the North Side who has served as Illinois’ 5th Congressional District’s representative since 2009. He was formerly a commissioner for Cook County. Quigley declared he would not run in April. He claimed he wanted to concentrate on his work in Congress despite the conflict in Ukraine. He is a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence and co-chair of the House Ukrainian Caucus.
Former Governor Pat Quinn
Former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn announced on November 17, 2022, that he would not run for mayor of Chicago. Quinn lost his 2014 reelection bid to Republican Bruce Rauner and has since focused most of his efforts on term limits for Chicago mayors.