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Chico joins his former CPS partner Vallas in endorsing Lightfoot

From left to right, mayoral candidates Gery Chico, Lori Lightfoot, Garry McCarthy, Toni Preckwinkle and Paul Vallas, attend a forum in December. File Photo. | Nader Issa/Sun-Times

Mayoral candidates (from left) Gery Chico, Lori Lightfoot, Garry McCarthy, Toni Preckwinkle and Paul Vallas attend a forum in December. Chico has now endorsed Lightfoot in her April 2 runoff against Preckwinkle, as has Vallas. | Nader Issa/Sun-Times file photo

Millionaire businessman Willie Wilson isn’t the only vanquished mayoral candidate jumping on the Lori Lightfoot bandwagon. So is Gery Chico.

Citing Lightfoot’s political independence and her track record as a former federal prosecutor, Chico on Thursday joined Wilson and Paul Vallas, his former partner at Chicago Public Schools, in endorsing Lightfoot.

In a telephone interview, Chico pointed to the unfolding corruption scandal that threatens to bring down the entire power structure in Chicago and Illinois.

It saw former Zoning Committee Chairman Danny Solis (25th), the City Council’s second-most powerful alderman, wear a wire to help the feds build their corruption case against the most powerful alderman, Edward Burke (14th), who has since been deposed as chairman of the Finance Committee.

Solis agreed to go undercover only after being confronted with the sordid corruption allegations the feds had compiled while tapping his phone and placing him under surveillance.

“Lori will be stronger on ethics reforms — and those are necessary right now, given some of the things you’re seeing emerge from the Council,” said Chico, a longtime friend of Burke’s who worked under him at the Finance Committee during Council Wars.

“Her background as a prosecutor will serve her well in what’s going to obviously be the first phase of the administration — to deal with the fall-out from the corruption in the City Council that we’re seeing. … Her background will help in instituting these new ethics reforms that have to clean this up in a hurry.”

On the campaign trail, Chico railed against Toni Preckwinkle’s ill-fated soda tax and penny sales tax and warned repeatedly about the Chicago Teachers Union’s endorsement of her after she embraced the CTU’s entire education agenda.

Preckwinkle has insisted that won’t compromise her ability to negotiate a new teachers contract that beleaguered Chicago taxpayers can afford.

Chico reiterated Thursday that he doesn’t buy it.

“The teachers union has really lined up squarely behind Toni Preckwinkle. She’s gonna cave, cave, cave first and then tax, tax, tax. And that’s just not a healthy situation,” Chico said.

“We need independence to make the best decisions for our families in schools. Lori’s in a better position to do that right now in not having to be beholden to the largest labor group at CPS.”

Vallas hinted at an endorsing Lightfoot on election night and made it official earlier this week.

Unlike Chico, he could be angling for a top job in a Lightfoot administration — either at CPS, or as city budget director or chief financial officer.

On Feb. 26, Chico got 6.2 percent or 34,521 votes. Vallas was close behind with 5.4 percent, or 30,236.

Wilson got 10.6 percent (59,072 votes). But, his support was more coveted because he won 13 South and West Side wards.

Now, Lightfoot has support from three of her former rivals, including Wilson.

Bill Daley, who finished third, and Susana Mendoza who came in fourth, have yet to endorse anyone in the runoff. Neither has Jerry Joyce, who cost Daley a spot in the runoff, Amara Enyia or Garry McCarthy.