Chicago residents are gearing up for a crucial mayoral election on Tuesday, with voters presented with a stark choice between two candidates who hold vastly divergent views on issues ranging from crime and taxes to education and policing. The third most populous city in the US is effectively split down the middle, with Paul Vallas, a moderate Democrat and former Chicago schools CEO, endorsed by major business groups and the police union, while his rival, the progressive former teacher and union organizer Brandon Johnson, enjoys the backing of the Chicago Teachers Union.

The February primaries saw both Johnson and Vallas surpass incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is bidding for re-election but was ultimately unable to keep up, leading to the first time in 40 years that an incumbent mayor had failed to retain power in the city. With neither candidate garnering over 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters will now progress to the runoff on Tuesday.

The mayoral race has been largely centered around the sharp increase in violent crime since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the ballooning property taxes. However, it could have wider implications for the Democratic Party on a national level, with other upcoming mayoral races, including those in Houston and Philadelphia, potentially being influenced by the outcome of the Chicago contest.

The race is being viewed as a test of the Democratic Party’s organizational might and messaging, particularly in relation to large cities and issues like crime and associations with law enforcement unions, for both the party’s moderate and progressive wings. With so much at stake, it is clear that this is a critical race in Chicago.

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