Lightfoot steps up attacks on Johnson, hoping to purge his surge: ‘Brandon’s not better. Brandon is bad for Chicago’

With money pouring into his $3.1 million campaign fund, Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson has been blanketing the airwaves with commercials touting his plan to “invest in people.” The mayor counters that his tax-the-rich plan will drive business from the city.

SHARE Lightfoot steps up attacks on Johnson, hoping to purge his surge: ‘Brandon’s not better. Brandon is bad for Chicago’
Mayor Lori Lightfoot (left) and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson (right) participate in a Leaders Network meeting in the Columbus Park Refectory on Tuesday.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot (left) and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson participated in a Leaders Network meeting in the Columbus Park Refectory Tuesday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

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For the second straight day, Mayor Lori Lightfoot took off the gloves against Brandon Johnson, accusing the Cook County commissioner and Chicago Teachers Union organizer of plotting to raise taxes by $800 million, killing jobs and driving businesses out of Chicago.

The last of five mayoral candidates to address the “Leaders Network” of West Side ministers on Tuesday, Lightfoot was also the most aggressive.

She attacked Johnson for his tax-the-rich plan to bankroll $1 billion in new spending on public schools, transportation, housing, health care and job creation.

With hundreds of thousands of dollars pouring into his $3.1 million campaign fund from teachers unions and Service Employees International Union affiliates, Johnson has been blanketing the airwaves with feel-good commercials introducing himself to voters.

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Johnson had the support of 11% of likely voters in a Chicago Sun-Times/WBEZ/Telemundo Chicago/NBC5 Poll published last week, finishing behind U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, Lightfoot and businessman Willie Wilson.

But several internal campaign and public polls show that Johnson is moving up and has become a legitimate threat to knock Lightfoot out of the runoff. The mayor’s own internal polling apparently shows the same movement — which is why she’s on the attack.

“When he says, ‘I’m gonna make all of these investments,’ ask him how he’s gonna pay for it. … Because what he wants to do is raise $800 million in taxes. Taxes that will kill, well, the unrich. Let’s ask what that really means. His plan is to tax people who make over $100,000 or more a year. That means 8,400 teachers or 37 % of the teachers who work for CPS. That would be taxing police, fire and untold others,” Lightfoot said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a Leaders Network meeting in the Columbus Park Refectory in the Austin neighborhood on Tuesday.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a Leaders Network meeting in the Columbus Park Refectory in the Austin neighborhood on Tuesday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

“But also what he plans to do is impose a series of corporate taxes that will not only drive businesses out of town, but what happens when businesses leave? They take those jobs with them. What he’s proposing to do will drive people to the unemployment line.

“The very people that he says he wants to help will lose their jobs. They will lose their benefits. They will lose hope. This is a serious challenge … that our city doesn’t need. Brandon’s not better. Brandon is bad for Chicago.”

A woman in the audience at the Columbus Park Refectory, 5701 West Jackson Blvd., objected to the mayor’s pointed attack.

“No. That’s not right. He didn’t say anything negative about you,” the woman said.

Lightfoot stood her ground even as she described Johnson as a “nice guy” and a “very eloquent speaker.”

“I’m sorry if the truth hurts, ma’am. But, I’ve got to stand here in good conscience and tell the truth,” the mayor said.

“There’s a lot of people in this race. A lot of Black folks. … They’re promising the sun, the moon and the stars. I heard [Johnson] keep saying, ‘If you vote for me, there’ll still be a Black woman in charge because of my wife. ... But, here’s the point.

“Beware of the people who are gonna come before you that have been elected for a long time telling you in their election year transformation, ‘I have the answer.’ Do they? Do they? I will put our record of accomplishment for this community and communities all across this city against any one of them and, frankly, all of them combined.”

She added, “I’m unapologetic about the things that we have done to help working men and women in this city. And I’m unapologetic about saying to you that, if you vote for me, the foundation that we have set over these last four years through the most difficult time that our city has ever seen, we will build upon that and the West Side will rise again.”

Johnson was the first candidate to speak to the Leaders Network.

He made no mention of his plan to “make the suburbs, airlines and ultra-rich pay their fair share” to generate $800 million in new revenue.

Instead, he talked about the underlying philosophy behind that plan, formulated during the time he spent teaching at Jenner Elementary near Cabrini-Green.

“For too many families in the city of Chicago, they get up every single morning chasing down an economy that’s behind them while everything in front of them is crumbling. That is why I’m running for the office of the mayor of Chicago. Because it is well past time that we disrupt and destroy this tale of two cities and usher in a better, stronger, safer Chicago,” said Johnson.

Mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson speaks at the Columbus Park Refectory in the Austin neighborhood on Tuesday.

Mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson speaks at the Columbus Park Refectory in the Austin neighborhood on Tuesday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Johnson described himself as “the only candidate in this race who has literally built an entire budget around Black people.”

Cook County Board “President [Toni] Preckwinkle looked at our budget for Black lives, and it became the guiding principle of how we’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars throughout Cook County,” he said.

Johnson’s $800 million tax plan initially included a “Metra city surcharge” to raise $40 million “from the suburbs.” The tax has since been dropped after generating a firestorm of controversy.

The plan still includes: a $100 million “mansion tax” on high-end home sales; a revived employee head tax; raising $98 million by “making the big airlines pay for polluting the air”; taxing financial transactions at a rate of $1 or $2 for every “securities trading contract”; hiking a Chicago hotel tax that’s already the nation’s highest to generate $30 million; and imposing “new user fees for high-end commercial districts frequented by the wealthy, suburbanites, tourists and business travelers” to generate $100 million.

Contributing: Pat Nabong


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