Note: This is the second in our series of three mayoral candidate forums.
• Recap: Mayoral Candidates Turn Up Heat in 2nd WTTW Forum
• Bonus video: Candidates participate in a post-forum press conference
• First forum: Jerry Joyce, Neal Sáles-Griffin, Bob Fioretti and John Kozlar
• Third forum: Garry McCarthy, Gery Chico, Amara Enyia, La Shawn K. Ford and Lori Lightfoot
About this series: This is not a traditional debate. There are no opening or closing remarks. Each candidate will not necessarily get the same questions. And while answers are not timed, our moderator may interrupt at times in an effort to cover as much ground as possible.
Joining us Monday, in ballot order:
Paul Vallas, 65, was born and raised in the Roseland community on Chicago’s South Side. He has held a number of positions in government and education, serving as city of Chicago budget director, Illinois economic and fiscal commission executive director, the superintendent of the Philadelphia Public Schools, the superintendent of Recovery School District in New Orleans and the superintendent of Bridgeport Public Schools. He ran unsuccessfully for Illinois governor in 2002 and lieutenant governor in 2014. In the WTTW Voter guide, Vallas says, “The voters have to treat this election like a job interview – because that is what it is. My vision is one of inclusion – not the exclusion that has historically kept the same neighborhoods down for decades, my vision is one of sound, competent, honest management. My vision is to give the taxpayers of this city value for their dollars, and to ensure equity and opportunity for every neighborhood.”
Willie Wilson, 70, was born in Gilbert, Louisiana, and moved to Chicago in 1965. He is a businessman, philanthropist and entrepreneur who was one of the first black owners of a McDonald’s restaurant, climbing the ranks from his first job there as a custodial worker. In 1997, Wilson founded Omar Medical Supplies. He holds a doctor of divinity degree from Mt. Carmel Theological Seminary and is the author of two books. As a candidate in the last mayoral election, Wilson garnered almost 11 percent of the vote. In the WTTW Voter Guide, Wilson says of his vision for the city, “To ‘give’ the city back to the people with economic fairness, safer neighborhoods, lower taxes and better quality of life for all will lead to unification of our great city.”
Toni Preckwinkle, 71, was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, and moved to Chicago to study at the University of Chicago where she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Preckwinkle serves as president of the Cook County Board – a position she has held since 2010 and to which she was re-elected in November. She also served five terms as 4th Ward alderman, from 1991 to 2010, and was the Democratic Party committeeman for the 4th Ward from 1992 to 2018. Preckwinkle was elected chair of the Cook County Democratic Party in 2018 after Joseph Berrios was defeated in a primary race for re-election to be Cook County assessor. In the WTTW Voter Guide, Preckwinkle says, “If elected, I will be a tough leader who will take on the old boys club and make Chicago a safe city where all of our students can grow up and fulfill their potential.”
Bill Daley, 70, is a lawyer, political operative and former banker. He served as White House chief of staff to former President Barack Obama (January 2011 to January 2012) and as U.S. secretary of commerce to former President Bill Clinton (1997 to 2000). He has held various positions, including the president of Amalgamated Bank of Chicago, president of SBC Communications, Midwest chairman of J.P. Morgan Chase, managing partner of Argentiere Capital and was a partner with the firm Mayer, Brown & Platt. Daley has also served on the board of directors of Boeing, Merck & Co., Boston Properties and Loyola University Chicago. He is currently a trustee of Northwestern University and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the seventh and youngest child of the late Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley and Eleanor “Sis” Daley, and the brother of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and Cook County Commissioner John Daley. Bill Daley was briefly a candidate for Illinois governor in 2014 until he dropped out. In the WTTW Voter Guide, Daley says, “Chicago is on the wrong track. That’s not just my opinion – that’s the opinion of the people who have been leaving our city year after year. For the third straight year, we’ve lost population. We were the only metropolitan area in the top 10 to shrink in 2017. People don’t leave a place that’s running the right way. They leave when they find something better. We have to be better.”
Susana Mendoza, 46, was born in Chicago and lived in Little Village until area violence forced the family to move to Bolingbrook. Since 2016, she has served as the Illinois comptroller. Mendoza served five years as Chicago city clerk and six terms in the Illinois General Assembly as a representative of the state’s 1st District. Days after being re-elected comptroller in 2018, Mendoza announced her candidacy for mayor of Chicago. In the WTTW Voter Guide, Mendoza said, “I love this city – it’s got a lot of challenges, but nothing we can’t overcome together. The issues that impact Chicagoans – violence, high property taxes, under-resourced schools – these aren’t just issues to me, they’re personal.”
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