Brandon Johnson meets Vice President Kamala Harris, works Capitol Hill

The mayor-elect Johnson had meetings Wednesday at the White House and the Capitol with the unions that bankrolled his mayoral run, hosting a fundraiser for him.

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Chicago Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson meets Wednesday with Illinois Democratic Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin in Durbin’s Capitol office.


WASHINGTON — Brandon Johnson made the rounds in the nation’s capital on Wednesday, working both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue in his first visit as the incoming Chicago mayor.

We talked in the late afternoon, just after he left a White House meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris and before he headed to the Democratic National Committee headquarters on Capitol Hill for a fundraiser hosted by the political arms of the American Federation of Teachers and the SEIU — the unions that bankrolled his mayoral run.

This was Johnson’s first time in the White House and the first time he met Harris, an experience that he told me left him “humbled” and “inspired.”

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According to the fundraiser invitation, obtained by the Sun-Times, the minimum contribution was $1,000; the top price $10,000, with the proceeds to go to his main political fund, Friends of Brandon Johnson.

Johnson, a paid organizer for the Chicago Teachers Union and a Cook County Board member, will be sworn-in as Chicago’s 57th mayor on Monday.

He will take office as Chicago faces a massive crisis, with surging numbers of migrants crossing the southern border and landing in the city. Illinois congressional leaders and outgoing Mayor Lori Lightfoot are pressuring  the Biden White House for more federal financial help — fast.

While at the White House, he also met with Julie Chávez Rodríguez, the White House director of intergovernmental affairs who will manage President Joe Biden’s 2024 campaign.

She is the granddaughter of United Farm Workers union leader César Chávez, and huddling with her was apt in a D.C. visit designed to, in a sense, solidify relations with the unions whose support was crucial to his victory. The rather unknown Johnson was politically viable in his City Hall run only because the AFT and SEIU poured millions of dollars into his campaign.

Johnson came to Washington from Charlotte, N.C., where on Tuesday night he spoke to the Democracy Alliance, a group of high-end Democratic donors and labor leaders.

On Wednesday morning, Johnson did a “meet and greet” with members of the AFT and other labor leaders, spending time with the early investors in his mayoral campaign.

Chicago is hosting the Democratic convention in 2024 and Johnson, at the DNC headquarters, met with Alex Hornbrook, the DNC’s director of convention planning and other senior DNC staff.

Johnson had separate meetings with the top two Senate progressives, both of whom endorsed him,  Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent.

He met with the Congressional Black Caucus — and had a meet and greet with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, hosted by freshman Rep. Delia Ramirez, D-Ill.

Ramirez and Johnson come out of the same progressive wing of the Democratic Party — a faction that is growing locally and nationally.

At the CPC event, Johnson said, they reflected on how “our organizing” has led to “an incredible political shift.”

Johnson also huddled with the top House Democrat, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries from New York, whom he met for the first time.

“He gave me a lot of advice,” Johnson said, including about how Chicago hosting the Democratic convention “could be and will be a catalyst for long-term investments and a true display, an example, of the best parts of this country.”

A meeting with the House members in the Illinois delegation never materialized.

Johnson did meet with the Illinois Democratic senators, Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, in Durbin’s Capitol office.

Duckworth backed Lightfoot in the first-round mayoral vote Feb. 28, sitting out the general election. Durbin skipped the first round and endorsed Paul Vallas in the April election.

Johnson, in a bit of what seemed to be relationship building, praised Durbin and Duckworth when we talked, calling them “two of the hardest working senators in the entire country.”

Durbin said in a statement that the senators “discussed issues he will face in his new administration and reiterated our commitment to assist in any way we can. When he succeeds, Chicago and Illinois succeed, and I look forward to our close collaboration in the future.”

Duckworth said she urged Johnson to take advantage of federal legislation she championed to pour federal dollars into removing lead pipes in Chicago.

Pritzker wooing major 2024 convention donors

On Thursday in Chicago, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and his wife, M.K., are hosting an event to raise money for the Chicago convention host committee. The event targets the elite ranks of major Democratic donors and corporate leaders whose companies could make substantial contributions.

The host committee will need to raise between $80 million and $100 million. Pritzker, a billionaire, has promised the DNC that he would make sure the party would not lose money if Chicago landed the convention.

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