Cook County Council President Tony Preckwinkle endorsed Brandon Johnson’s candidacy for Chicago mayor against Paul Wallace on Tuesday morning, describing Johnson as “a leader who reflects our vision, our values and our hopes for our city.”
“As a Cook County commissioner, he focused on working families on the West Side and beyond. He has successfully supported efforts to ensure greater transparency and equity in public safety. He was a leader in the county’s efforts to eliminate its massive health care debt. He was also a strong supporter of small business,” Preckwinkle said at a press conference, standing next to Johnson outside the Cook County building. “He will bring to City Hall a deep sense of responsibility, a commitment to integrity and a healthy dose of courage, and believe me, he will need all of those things.”
Like Johnson now, Preckwinkle was in charge A candidate elected by the Chicago Teachers Union for her unsuccessful bid for mayor in 2019 after she expressed strong support for an elected school board and promised to freeze charter school expansion and public school closures.
“You don’t get much better training than standing in front of a classroom full of middle schoolers and teenagers,” Preckwinkle said Tuesday of Johnson, who has also served as a CTU organizer.
Although Preckwinkle and Johnson were longtime allies and both former teachers, Preckwinkle — Cook County Democratic Party chair and 4th Ward Democratic Committeewoman — did not endorse the mayor in the first round, citing her longstanding relationships with several candidates. , including Rep. Jesus “Chewy” Garcia, Rep. Cam Buckner, Ald. Roderick Sawyer and Ald. Sofia the King.
However, in the final days before last week’s first round of voting, Preckwinkle’s campaign did issue a text warning against Vallas to some voters, directing voters to Tribune story about Vallas’ Twitter account “likes of racist posts” and a warning: “Don’t be fooled. Chicago deserves a mayor who isn’t racist.”
She suggested on Tuesday that Johnson was her choice all along. The two have been close allies since his 2018 campaign for county council, and Preckwinkle confirmed Tuesday that she lobbied other elected officials in the days after the Feb. 28 election to rally around him.
Johnson and Wallace won and advanced to the April 4 runoff, derailing Lightfoot’s bid for a second term before the second round of voting.
Preckwinkle, who lost to Lightfoot four years ago, said Tuesday that she “had this stupid idea that on March 1st I would be able to rest after the Feb. 28 election. And then, of course, my candidate won, and I’ve been calling Democrats on his behalf ever since. I was encouraged by the response we received. We have a lot of work.”
One of Johnson’s former mayoral rivals, Sawyer, already endorsed by Vallas. Asked whether he had spoken with other rivals in the campaign, including Garcia, Johnson said he had had “a few conversations” with other candidates running for mayor, “and those conversations are going well “.
Johnson defeated incumbent Commissioner Richard Boykin — Preckwinkle’s antagonist — in the 2018 Democratic primary, earning her endorsement and financial backing. Boykin helped lead the opposition to Preckwinkle a short-term tax on sweetened beverages — known as the pop tax — which was supported by unions as a way to prevent layoffs in the county budget.
At the time, Johnson painted Boykin as a Republican-backed, big-business candidate. That year, four of Preckwinkle’s rivals on the board — Boykin, Tim Schneider, John Fritchie and Greg Goslin — lost their re-election campaigns, clearing the way for commission members more friendly to Preckwinkle’s agenda.
Asked if Johnson, who had just been sworn in for a second term as a county commissioner, had the administrative skills to run the city, Preckwinkle said, “I think you have to remember that when I was chairman, I had staff, a full-time staff of three and two part-time employees. The most important task is to find good people who want to work with you,” she said. “It’s all about hiring good people, and I’m sure Brendan will do just that.”
Wallace touted the endorsement of black leaders, including retired Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and U.S. Representative Danny Davis.
Also Tuesday, Hair released the first television commercial season two in a 30-second clip featuring former Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, who endorsed Vallas last week, promising that the former school principal would be “a mayor for all Chicagoans.”
The Tribune’s Alice Yin contributed.