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Who is Brandon Johnson? What to Know About the Cook County Commissioner and Mayoral Candidate – NBC Chicago

With just over five weeks to go until the 2023 Chicago mayoral election and just after a debate in which all nine candidates appeared at, many Chicago voters are looking to gather more information ahead of the pivotal day at the polls.

While many Chicagoans are familiar with incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Congressman Chuy Garcia, other candidates got their first opportunity to make their case for Chicago’s top office to the public in this week’s debate.

Among those candidates is Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, who is largely backed by several prominent unions and progressive city leaders and recently launched a TV advertising campaign shortly ahead of the debate.

Who is Brandon Johnson?

A Cook County Commissioner for the 1st District initially elected in 2018, Johnson launched his campaign for the mayor’s seat in late October, already receiving the backing of the Chicago Teachers Union prior to his announcement.

Johnson got his start as an elected official after narrowly defeating former Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin in the Democratic primary in 2018, before later running unopposed in the general election that fall.

After being sworn in that December, Johnson established his first battle against the current mayor less than a year later during the 2019 Chicago Public Schools strike, when he organized alongside CTU and penned a letter in the Chicago Tribune, invoking his own background as a public schoolteacher.

Johnson’s name was first floated as a potential mayoral candidate during the 2019 strike, though he would call the rumors “laughable” in a Politico article chronicling the strike’s aftermath.

According to Johnson’s website, he began his career as a public school teacher at Jenner Academy in Cabrini-Green before later teaching at Westinghouse College Prep on the West Side.

Johnson has worked as a paid organizer for CTU before, and has also been endorsed by the United Working Families and Service Employees International Union Local 73.

Johnson is resident at Austin, and lives with his wife and three children.

What Are His Positions on Pivotal Issues?

As a candidate, Johnson has positioned himself to the political left of the incumbent mayor, advocating for reduced fares on public transit, canceling the city’s contract with ShotSpotter and a real estate transfer tax on the sale of multi-million dollar homes.

According to the County Commissioner’s campaign website, Johnson hopes to re-open the city’s mental health clinics and increase investment in year-round youth employment to address public safety.

On Johnson’s campaign website, not much is offered in terms of the Commissioner’s plan with the city budget. In addition to advocacy for a real estate transfer tax, Johnson also voices support for taxing profits of Chicago’s corporations and instituting TIF reform in an effort to return property tax revenue to the city’s schools and parks.

Another noticeable proposal from Johnson’s is a Rideshare Living Wage ordinance, aimed at protecting gig workers such as rideshare and delivery app drivers.

On transportation, Johnson proposes reduced or eliminated fare for some on the CTA while expanding access and reliability, though few specifics are offered.

Johnson’s campaign advocates for expanded service in evening hours and greater resources from mental health professionals and housing advocates, although it’s unclear what extent of financial allocation would go toward the effort.

Who Has Endorsed Brandon Johnson?

In addition to being backed by the Chicago Teachers Union, the United Working Families and SEIU Local 73, the County Commissioner has received the endorsements of the following elected officials, according to his website:

  • U.S. Rep. Jonathan Jackson (IL-01)
  • U.S. Rep. Delia Ramirez (IL-03)
  • State Sen. Cristina Pacione-Zayas (20th)
  • State Rep. Lilian Jimenez (4th)
  • State Rep. Lakesia Collins (9th)
  • State Rep. Mary Flowers (31st)
  • State Rep. Will Guzzardi (39th)
  • Cook County Commissioner Bill Lowry (3rd)
  • Cook County Commissioner Stanley Moore (4th)
  • Cook County Commissioner Anthony Quezada (8th)
  • Cook County Commissioner Josina Morita (13th)
  • 1st Ward Ald. Daniel LaSpata
  • 20th Ward Ald. Jeannette Taylor
  • 25th Ward Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez
  • 33rd Ward Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez
  • 35th Ward Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa

A full list of organizational endorsements for Johnson can be found here.

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