Former mayoral challenger Ja’Mal Green endorses Vallas; Kwame Raoul first statewide official to back Johnson in runoff
The 27-year-old community activist said he secured promises he believes will improve the lives of African Americans. Illinois attorney general applauded Johnson’s vision for a “safer, stronger Chicago.”
After securing a series of promises he hopes will improve the lives of African Americans, vanquished mayoral challenger Ja’Mal Green on Wednesday endorsed Paul Vallas over Brandon Johnson in the April 4 mayoral runoff election.
Johnson countered with the formidable endorsement of Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, whose office oversees the consent decree outlining the terms of federal court oversight over the Chicago Police Department.
Green once again denounced Johnson as a “fraud” trying to “use” his family’s home in the West Side’s crime-ridden Austin community to his advantage.
“As someone who is trying to portray himself as like he’s super-Black and had these experiences, he has been disconnected from the Black community the whole time he’s been in Chicago for the last 15 years, since he moved from Elgin. That’s why I took that personal,” Green said. “As somebody who is actually from the community who is experiencing these problems, who is dealing with gun violence and at-risk youth, it’s personal to me when people use that suffering and pain and disinvestment for their use when they really haven’t experienced it and they really haven’t fought to make it better.”
Green’s decision to endorse Vallas in a battle between Black and white candidates, a contest likely to be decided by the African American vote, is somewhat of a surprise.
But it comes only after the 27-year-old community activist bargained hard and secured a series of promises from the 69-year-old former school official that Green believes will improve the lives of African Americans in general and Black youth in particular.
“He’s gonna create an Office of Black Americans to tackle the oppression and redlining that’s happened throughout the years. He’s gonna make sure Black contractors get their set-asides. ... He’s gonna have a youth jobs program year-round. He will put trades back in the schools and have apprenticeships, tech hubs for the next generation of jobs as well as a mayoral fellows program for young people to have a pipeline into city government and a reentry program for folks who return home from prison,” Green said.
“This is about an agenda … that he committed to that we can hold him accountable to. And I’ve told folks many times, if a politician can’t tell you what they’re gonna do — if they won’t commit to anything — then we can’t support them because we can’t hold them accountable. Me and Paul don’t agree on everything. But what we agree on is that he will listen and he will surround himself with people who will guide him the right direction.”
Green said he met with Johnson before choosing Vallas and came away convinced Johnson is “beholden” to the Chicago Teachers Union and Democratic Cook County Board Chair Toni Preckwinkle.
“That’s dangerous,” Green said, adding that he is unwilling to support Johnson only “because of identity or just because he looks like me, when I know that he is not prepared.”
Green finished in sixth place on Feb. 28 with 2.17% of the vote.
The two-time mayoral challenger hedged when asked whether the 69-year-old candidate he affectionately called a “grandpa figure” had promised him a job heading any of those new offices.
“We talked about continuing to work together when he’s mayor. It’s about getting him over the finish line. I’ll be there to support him. If there’s an opportunity that arises, then it will. But we talked about just continuing to work together on these issues. He wants me to advise him. Right now, I want to be a senior adviser to advise him on community and policy. Then, we’ll go from there,” Green said.
Green is the third mayoral challenger to take sides in the runoff race. Millionaire businessman Willie Wilson, who finished fifth with 9.14% of the vote, and retiring Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), who finished last with 0.43% of the vote, have also endorsed Vallas.
Vallas also was endorsed by 11th Ward Ald. Nicole Lee, 39th Ward Ald. Samantha Nugent, 44th Ward Ald.-elect Bennett Lawson and 50th Ward Ald. Debra Silverstein.
Raoul’s endorsement of Johnson, meanwhile, makes him the first statewide elected official to take sides in the race.
“I’m proud to endorse Brandon Johnson for mayor and his vision for a safer, stronger Chicago,” Raoul was quoted as saying in a news release.
“Brandon is the right candidate to move Chicago forward, and I am grateful for his partnership to achieve full implementation of the Chicago police consent decree, make critical investments in mental health resources for police officers and crack down on organized retail theft.”