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Mayoral Candidates Debate In Chicago
Mayoral candidates, from left, Ja'Mal Green, Sophia King, Kam Buckner, Wille Wilson, Brandon Johnson, Paul Vallas, Lori Lightfoot, Roderick Sawyer and Jesus Chuy Garcia get ready to debate one another at WLS-TV ABC Channel 7 studio in Chicago, on Jan. 19, 2023.Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere / Pool via Getty Images

Crime a focal point in ads in Chicago's mayoral race

Just over a month before voters head to the polls, candidates are pitching their plans to address crime on the airwaves.


Though election season ended for most Americans last year, voters living in Chicago have been bombarded by ads anew as they prepare to head to the polls in the city's mayoral election next month.

Nine candidates, including Mayor Lori Lightfoot, are running for the position, but just five have purchased airtime for campaign ads, according to AdImpact, an ad-tracking software.

And, among all four of those candidates — businessman Willie Wilson, Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, former head of Chicago Public Schools Paul Vallas, U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and Lightfoot — tackling crime in the city is the top message in their ads. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote in the Feb. 28 election, the top two vote getters will face off in a runoff on April 4.

In one ad, Wilson tells viewers he will, "take the handcuffs off the police and put them on the criminals," mentioning his plans to increase the police force and put armed officers on the city's transit system.

Garcia, in an ad released on Tuesday, tells viewers, "Enough is enough. It's time to get back to a safer Chicago now by getting more cops on our streets and illegal guns off of them."

Vallas promises to work with “every community” in the city to tackle crime in one ad, where he also hits at Lightfoot without mentioning her name.

“Crime is out of control and combative leadership is failing us,” Vallas says. 

Lightfoot defends herself from attacks like Vallas' in one of her own TV spots, featuring a resident who tells viewers, "On crime, Mayor Lightfoot's got a plan. She's putting more police on the streets and getting more guns off them."

"Anyone that says there are simple solutions is lying," the ad continues.

Lightfoot is also the first to run an ad explicitly attacking another candidate, Garcia. The ad links Garcia to Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced former CEO of crypto exchange FTX who is facing charges of fraud and money laundering, and to Michael Madigan, the former Illinois House Speaker who has been indicted on federal racketeering charges.

"Crypto crooks, indicted [politicians] and pay-to-play profiteers. The more, you know, the worst it gets," a narrator in that ad says.