Will La Shawn Ford run for Chicago mayor again in 2023?

His supporters may be clamoring, but for Ford, 2023 could be another tall order.

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State Representative Lashawn Ford speaks at a press conference held by a coalition of Cannabis Activist and Social Equity Applicants on June 2021.

State Representative Lashawn Ford speaks at a press conference held by a coalition of Cannabis Activist and Social Equity Applicants on June 2021.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Chicago’s next mayoral election is a year away, but speculation over who will take on Mayor Lori Lightfoot is warming my political toes this frosty winter.

Lightfoot’s tenure has been buffeted by controversy. If she runs for reelection in 2023, the knives may be out among many challengers.

“There are many asking state Rep. La Shawn Ford to consider the post,” a longtime Chicago civic leader recently wrote me. “Corporate leaders, activists, clergy, teachers and community organizers, ministers. You might want to chat with him.”

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We chatted, and Ford confirmed he is mulling a reprise of his failed 2019 mayoral bid.

“I know how difficult it is to run for mayor, to even think about doing it again,” he said. “If I wasn’t getting encouraged by the people in the City of Chicago, Black, white, Hispanic, everyone.”

He emphasized, “I don’t dislike the mayor. I think she’s a brilliant person,” he said, and he wants her to succeed.

Yet Ford echoed a common mantra — that Lightfoot does not work well with other city leaders. “I don’t think that we have enough collaboration in this city,” he said.

If she can’t turn things around, Ford may take her on. Collaboration is crucial, especially now, he noted. “We have an epidemic of violence, an epidemic of drug overdoses in the City of Chicago and lots of poverty. This was actually a perfect opportunity for us to come together as a city because any time there is a tragedy, normally, people get closer.”

But “the city has been divided, and that doesn’t make sense,” he said. There’s a lot of pain out there, he added, but Lightfoot has been doing too much “fighting” and not enough “healing.”

Lightfoot should examine her “personal relationships” and realize “if I’m fighting, then I’m not trying to work out the differences, because I’m busy fighting.”

“There has to be a truce,” he added, “between the police (union) and the mayor to make sure that we’re listening to each other and not fighting. That has to happen. We have to reset.”

And call a truce with others she has battled with, he added, including the Chicago Teachers Union, the Chicago City Council and the business community.

Good advice, but given the history, that may be a tall order.

Ford, 49, is one of the city’s notable lawmakers. Based in Austin on the West Side, he has represented Illinois’ 8th legislative district since 2007. He has worked as a public school teacher and real estate investor.

Last month, he garnered attention when he decried Chicago’s “non-stop violence” and convened the families of eight victims of gun violence at the James R. Thompson Center to share their stories and “call for calm.”

His 23-page biography touts many other causes, from his push to get people of color more investment opportunities in the legalized marijuana industry to pushing for legislation to expand screenings for HIV. He is the parent of a teenage daughter. In 2020, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, received treatment and has been cancer-free for more than a year. He is a stalwart advocate for early detection.

Ford was a late entry in the 2019 mayoral contest, along with 13 other candidates in the first round. He won about 1% of the vote.

Ford will have plenty of company in 2023. Given Lightfoot’s vulnerabilities, look for another crowded field, including several African Americans, which could split the anti-Lightfoot vote.

His supporters may be clamoring, but for Ford, 2023 could be another tall order.

Follow Laura Washington on Twitter @mediadervish

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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