The Power Of The Crime Issue

Chicago’s incumbent mayor lost in her bid for reelection last night. Mayor Lori Lightfoot finished third behind two challengers, garnering only 16.89 percent of the vote.

The consensus view is that the outcome-determinative issue in the Chicago mayoral race was crime. The Windy City experienced a 41 percent increase in overall crime from 2021 to 2022, and the candidate who received the most votes in yesterday’s election, Paul Vallas, campaigned on the theme that crime in Chicago is out of control. Vallas, who is backed by Chicago’s police union, ran on a law-and-order platform and calls for adding hundreds of new officers to the city police force.

Interestingly, the second place candidate, Brandon Johnson, takes a sharply different approach, arguing that Chicago doesn’t need more money for police, but instead should increase funding for mental health care, education, jobs and affordable housing. Other candidates, including Lightfoot, accused Johnson of wanting to “defund the police.” It therefore looks like Chicago voters will be presented with starkly different approaches to the crime issue as the candidates move toward the final runoff election on April 4.

Mayor Lightfoot’s loss in the Chicago mayoral race shows, once again, that crime is an immensely powerful political issue, especially on the local level. If voters don’t feel personally secure as they go about their lives, they aren’t going to pay a lot of attention to other matters. In American cities, that’s a lesson from Municipal Politics 101.