First in, first out: Lopez folds mayoral bid, seeks reelection to Council seat instead

The 15th Ward alderperson was the mayor’s first challenger. On Monday, the first day to file petitions, he became the first to end his campaign.

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Former mayoral candidate Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) chats with reporters at the Chicago Board of Elections Super Site at 191 N. Clark St. in the Loop, Monday morning, Nov. 21, 2022.

Former mayoral candidate, Ald. Ray Lopez (15th), chats with reporters at the Chicago Board of Elections Super Site at 191 N. Clark St. in the Loop Monday morning.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Ald. Ray Lopez (15th), one of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s most vocal critics on the Chicago City Council, dropped his mayoral bid Monday, saying it would increase the chances that someone would unseat the incumbent.

“This was not an easy decision for me,” Lopez said Monday. “I’ve been probably one of the, if not the, largest critics of the mayor and her administration, holding her feet to the fire at every turn. But I also know that this can’t just be about me.”

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Lopez said he made the decision after speaking with several other candidates in the mayoral race about the need to narrow the chances that Lightfoot makes it into a runoff election between the top two candidates; that’s what occurs if no one captures more than half the votes cast.

“If that means one of us has to be the mature one, to make the mature decision, so be it. I can live with that,” he said.

“Nobody drew straws, because nobody wanted to step out,” Lopez said, adding that he was not pressured to step down. “You know what? I can make a big boy decision myself.”

As for how many other candidates were involved in the discussion, it was “enough,” he said.

“I’m not upset, because at the end of the day, this has to be about saving Chicago,” Lopez added.

“The goal has to be to defeat Lori Lightfoot,” he said. “She cannot have a second term. She’s been destructive and dangerous for this city, and we can’t let our egos cloud the opportunity to get rid of her.”

Lopez made his announcement at the Chicago Board of Elections, where candidates were lining up Monday morning, the first day that petitions for mayor and other municipal offices could be filed.

Ald. Ray Lopez announces he is running for mayor of Chicago. He made the announcement on Wednesday, April 6, 2022 at The Plant, 1400 W. 46th St., in his Southwest Side ward.

Fifteenth Ward Ald. Ray Lopez is shown in April as he kicked off his campaign for mayor, which ended Monday with his announcement that he’s dropping out of the race.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

In April, he became the first to formally enter the race against Lightfoot. Now, he has become the first to drop out.

No sitting City Council member has been elected mayor of Chicago in at least 125 years. Two sitting members — Michael Bilandic and Eugene Sawyer — were chosen by the Council as acting mayors after the deaths of mayors Richard J. Daley and Harold Washington. Bilandic, as acting mayor, won a special election in 1977 to serve out Daley’s term, but he lost in 1979 to Jane Byrne. Sawyer lost a special mayoral election to Richard M. Daley in 1989.

Lopez, a former skycap for Southwest Airlines, represents a ward that includes Brighton Park, Gage Park, New City, West Englewood and Back of the Yards.

He has a track record of standing up to both Lightfoot and to the violent street gangs who terrorize his constituents. His home and his ward office have been targeted repeatedly by vandals apparently determined to send him a message.

“I’m a man of conviction. I’m a man who stands up for what he believes in — even when it’s unpopular. Even when it’s unsafe. That’s the kind of mayor Chicago needs right now —someone who’s willing to stand up for something, not a panderer,” he said on the day in April that he announced his candidacy.

Lopez accused Lightfoot of using an avalanche of federal COVID-19 relief money to engineer a parade of giveaways — including guaranteed minimum income checks, gas cards, Ventra cards, free bicycles and security cameras.

“She’s grasping at straws at the 11th hour, trying to save her political life,” Lopez said at the time, accusing Lightfoot of failing to consult a Council with whom she has had a contentious relationship since day one.

Lopez said then his polling shows he has “a path” to victory. Now, he says dropping out will increase the odds that Lightfoot is not reelected.

Contributing: Fran Spielman

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