Arne Duncan Pulls Plug on Potential Chicago Mayoral Run

Arne Duncan appears on “Chicago Tonight” on Feb. 22, 2016. (WTTW News)Arne Duncan appears on “Chicago Tonight” on Feb. 22, 2016. (WTTW News)

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced Tuesday that he would not run for mayor of Chicago in 2023, removing Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s most prominent potential challenger from the growing field of prospective candidates.

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Duncan’s announcement came more than a month after the former Chicago Public Schools CEO told reporters he was actively weighing a bid to deny Lightfoot a second term in office, calling her public safety strategy a complete failure.

But in a statement released Tuesday, Duncan said he had ruled out a bid for elected office and would continue to run Chicago CRED, a violence prevention organization, and serve as a managing partner of the Emerson Collective.

“I am exactly where I need to be, doing the work I love,” Duncan said in a statement. “The best way I can serve our city is to stay laser focused on reducing gun violence.”

Facing a self-imposed deadline of Tuesday to decide whether to run for mayor, Duncan told WTTW News in a brief interview that he decided not to run after a friend told him that if he ran for mayor he would spend the next year talking about violence prevention rather than working to prevent violence.

“That was a pill I couldn’t swallow,” Duncan said, particularly at a time when Chicago is in a “state of crisis.”

During January and February, there were 92 homicides in Chicago — one more than during the same period in 2021, a year that ended with approximately 800 homicides, according to data released Tuesday by the Chicago Police Department.

Lightfoot said Duncan's anti-violence efforts had “contributed to our city’s well being in important ways,” in a statement released by her political organization.

“We all agree that the priority is to make sure every resident, regardless of zip code, experiences safe and peaceful neighborhoods, and I will work with all people of good will focused on that objective,” Lightfoot said. “We must all work together to combat gang and gun violence, and to continue our work of investing in historically neglected neighborhoods."

Duncan acknowledged that as mayor of Chicago, he could have a powerful impact on violence prevention efforts and law enforcement policy, but said that was not the path he had chosen.

“I want to be on the streets,” Duncan said, adding that otherwise he would find it “hard to live with myself.”

While Lightfoot has not yet formally announced her bid for a second term, she has begun raising campaign cash with frequent email solicitations highlighting her record in office as well as hitting reliably popular issues with Democrats, including support for abortion rights and blasting Republicans for disparaging Chicago.

Lightfoot traveled to New York on Feb. 16, signaling her reelection bid was well underway, despite the lack of a formal announcement.

The mayoral election is set for Feb. 28, 2023 — 364 days from Tuesday.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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