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Mayoral candidate Paul Vallas holds a press conference in Chicago
Mayoral candidate Paul Vallas holds a press conference in Chicago, on Tuesday.Scott Olson / Getty Images

Brandon Johnson attacks Paul Vallas in first runoff ad

The ad attacks Vallas' record as CEO of city schools and highlights offensive tweets that the Vallas' campaign account "liked."

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Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson is going on the offensive in his first campaign ad of the runoff, with just over three weeks to go before the April 4 election.

The ad, shared first with NBC News, calls former Chicago public schools CEO Paul Vallas "wrong for Chicago," and blames Vallas for implementing changes in the school system that led to higher property taxes.

Vallas has pushed back on these types of claims, touting his endorsements from educators, including a former school principal, and releasing a campaign ad touting his achievements at the school system. The ad features a clip from former President Bill Clinton's 1999 State of the Union address highlighting the successes of Chicago schools.

Johnson's new ad also cites racist and offensive tweets that were "liked" by the Vallas campaign account on Twitter.

"What do we know about the real Paul Vallas?" a narrator in the ad says, adding later, "The one who was just caught spreading racist and homophobic tweets?"

The tweets came to light just days before the general election in February, and Vallas' campaign said he had nothing to do with liking them, adding in a statement, "[Vallas] had nothing to do with liking these posts, but the campaign takes responsibility and we have taken steps to restrict access to the account."

The third line of attack in Johnson's ad mentions that Vallas used to identify as a Republican, a point that has come up in the campaign before.

In a debate, Vallas responded to comments he made in 2009 where he said, "I'm a Republican more than a Democrat." He told a moderator, "I'm a lifelong Democrat," and ran through the campaigns he's been involved in in the Democratic party.

Both campaigns are gearing up for a bruising and expensive runoff. Johnson's campaign says that this first ad is part of a "seven-figure" ad buy.