Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas has followed through on his promise to create a campaign committee that will raise money for a 2019 campaign for mayor.
The D-1 Statement of Organization creating “Paul Vallas for Chicago” was filed late Sunday and stamped by the Illinois State Board of Elections at 9:09 a.m. Monday.
As expected, the candidate’s brother and longtime political strategist, Dean Vallas, is listed as the campaign treasurer. Longtime friend and co-worker Marilyn Johnson is listed as campaign chairman. Johnson is a former Cook County Circuit Court judge who served as CPS general counsel under Vallas.
The D-1 states that funds raised for Vallas’ mayoral campaign would be deposited in the Busey Bank of Plainfield.
That could become a source of controversy, considering the fact that Vallas just recently re-established residence in Chicago by purchasing a home in Lincoln Park.
Vallas, who has been mourning the loss of his youngest son, Mark, could not be reached for comment.
In a text message, Vallas said interviews would have to wait until his “formal announcement” in a few weeks.
“At which time, I will be willing to be interviewed any time until Election Day, assuming I am still a person of interest,” he wrote.
“It’s going to be a long campaign and I want to hit the ground running.”
Vallas is widely-viewed as the strongest potential challenger to Mayor Rahm Emanuel because of his potential to build a multi-racial coalition.
He was wildly popular in the African-American community during a six-year run as schools CEO that ended in 2001, when then-Mayor Richard M. Daley fired Vallas.
“Paul was a known commodity in Chicago 20 years ago. He starts out with people of a certain age and older knowing who he is and knowing what his accomplishments were,” Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), Emanuel’s City Council floor leader, said Monday.
“But, that potential is based upon a reputation that is about two decades old. Can you rekindle that? Can you get people excited about that? Is there still relevance to whatever it is he’s gonna try to present to the people of Chicago? That just remains to be seen.”
Emanuel campaign spokesman Peter Giangreco released an emailed statement in response to the Vallas filing.
“When the time is appropriate, our campaign will comment on Paul Vallas’ record of leaving fiscal time bombs behind as he moved from job to job in Chicago, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Connecticut,” Giangreco wrote.
“In the meantime, the mayor will continue to focus on stabilizing finances at the Chicago Public Schools, which have taken years to shore up after decades of mismanagement.”
A campaign between Vallas and Emanuel is expected to focus heavily on city finances.
On Jan. 31, Vallas accused Emanuel of “punting” Chicago’s $36 billion pension crisis during his first term in office, making the problem infinitely worse.
“You had Quinn as governor for four years. You had a veto-proof House and Senate. You could have addressed the pension issue. You could have addressed school funding reform. You could have passed a permanent increase in the income tax,” Vallas said then.
“They punted for four years and, after the election, suddenly the sword of Damocles comes crashing down. What’s gonna happen in the next four years? The long-term structural problems . . . have not yet been addressed. They’re talking about major post-election tax increases . . . Who are you gonna trust to navigate the city through those troubled financial waters?”
Vallas also questioned whether Chicago has the “financial infrastructure to sustain” Emanuel’s two-year plan to hire 970 additional police officers above and beyond attrition. He noted then that rookie salaries are low, but rise fast.
“What happens after the election when the city’s financial crisis continues? Do you begin not filling the police vacancies? . . . Those shell games have been raised before,” Vallas said then.
Emanuel was incensed by Vallas’ attempt to take aim at, what the mayor views as his greatest strength. So much so that he broke with his longstanding tradition of ignoring potential challengers.
“This is a person who is the architect of kicking the can down the road – from skipping pension payments, eliminating direct-line revenue support for teachers pensions to Chicago’s corporate account . . . It took the city seven long, hard years to fix what he broke,” Emanuel said.
“We’re not going back. It’s not gonna be back to the future . . . Since this is the day, we’re not gonna have Ground Hog Day again here in Chicago. It’s not gonna happen.”
The crowded field of mayoral contenders already includes: fired Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy; fired Chicago principal Troy LaRaviere; tech entrepreneur Neal Sales-Griffin and businessman Willie Wilson. County Commissioner Bridget Gainer and Police Board President Lori Lightfoot are also considering entering the race.
McCarthy and Vallas have already met privately and agreed to lay off each other and focus their attacks on Emanuel.
That presumably includes an unwritten agreement that, whomever manages to force Emanuel into a run-off will get the support of the other.
“These guys have both decided they’ll both be against Rahm so they can try and build themselves up. But, when it becomes clear that one of them is clearly falling behind the other, does that détente stay in place? I doubt it,” O’Connor said.