Sen. Dick Durbin endorses Paul Vallas, calls him ‘bridge to uniting’ Chicago

Durbin made the endorsement Sunday, with former Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White at his side, at Athena Restaurant on Halsted Street in Greektown, feet away from the saganaki flames.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin shakes hands with Paul Vallas on March 26, 2023, at Athena Restaurant after endorsing Vallas for mayor.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin joined Paul Vallas at Athena Restaurant in Greektown on Sunday to endorse Vallas in the April 4 mayoral runoff election.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Complete coverage of the local and national primary and general election, including results, analysis and voter resources to keep Chicago voters informed.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin has thrown his support behind Paul Vallas in the April 4 Chicago mayoral runoff, calling the election an “extraordinary” moment in the city’s history.

Durbin, D-Ill., said he thought “long and hard” about making an endorsement and finally chose to “come off the comfort of the sidelines.”

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Sen. Dick Durbin announces his endorsement of mayoral runoff candidate Paul Vallas at Athena Restaurant. At right is former Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White. “Make no mistake, Jesse White and I would not be here today if we did not believe, in his heart, Paul Vallas is a lifelong Democrat committed to democratic values,” Durbin said, responding to assertions that Vallas was a Republican.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

“I respect both candidates in the race. And I thought, quite honestly, I know Paul Vallas so well,” said Durbin — for over 40 years, he added.

“I didn’t want to lose the fact that — at this moment in history when we need such leadership and innovative thinking in the city of Chicago — we have an extraordinary opportunity,” Durbin said.

Some other major players in state politics, including Gov. J.B. Pritzker, have not taken sides.

Durbin made the endorsement Sunday, with former Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White at his side, at Athena Restaurant on Halsted Street in Greektown, as saganaki was set afire just feet away.

Durbin tried to shake off accusations that Vallas is secretly a Republican.

“Make no mistake, Jesse White and I would not be here today if we did not believe, in his heart, Paul Vallas is a lifelong Democrat committed to democratic values,” Durbin said.

“I believe Paul Vallas can lead Chicago forward and be a bridge to uniting the good people in this city.”

Mayoral candidate Paul Vallas (right) sits down with U.S. Se. Dick Durbin (left) and former Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White (center) at Athena Restaurant, 212 S. Halsted St. on March 26, 2023.

Mayoral candidate Paul Vallas, right, sits down with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and former Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White at Athena Restaurant. Early voting is underway in the April 4 mayoral runoff.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Durbin credited Vallas’ experience as Chicago’s budget director and CEO of Chicago Public Schools.

“He closed a projected $1.3 billion deficit. He balanced six consecutive budgets. He instituted the largest school construction plan in the nation’s history. He improved test scores and opened the nation’s first public high school military academy,” Durbin said. “He left the district with labor peace, no teachers’ strikes, fully-funded pensions, $1.2 billion in cash reserves.”

Vallas said the endorsements from Durbin, White and other prominent Democrats would “help dispel this myth that I’m not a lifelong Democrat.”

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Paul Vallas takes questions, flanked by Sen. Dick Durbin and former Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White. Vallas said he would continue Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Invest South/West program to pump money into underserved neighborhoods.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Vallas also spoke about his shared vision with Durbin to address crime and support public schools. Vallas said he would continue Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Invest South/West program to pump money into developments in the city’s underserved neighborhoods.

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