Ja’Mal Green Joins Race for Mayor, Becoming 2nd Progressive Challenger to Lightfoot

Video:  Ja’Mal Green joins “Chicago Tonight” to discuss his entry into the mayoral race. (Produced by Jennifer Cotto)

Activist Ja’Mal Green launched a bid for mayor Tuesday, becoming the second member of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party to challenge Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

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Green, 27, ran for mayor in 2019, but failed to make the ballot after businessman and philanthropist Willie Wilson challenged his nominating petitions. 

“We’re in a state of emergency,” Green told “Chicago Tonight” on Tuesday. “This city is in huge disarray.” 

If elected, Green would be the youngest mayor in Chicago history. Green said the fact that he grew up on the South and West sides, and was kicked out of nine schools during a difficult childhood, made him “uniquely qualified” to address what ails Chicago.

“I was a troubled kid, before, but I turned my life around and became a successful businessman,” Green said. “I’ve done the work without the fancy title, and that’s the person that needs the job.”

But while Green touts his youth as an asset, he is likely to face questions about his temperament, maturity and judgment.

Green sent a Tweet in April 2021 declaring that “Lightfoot is resigning tomorrow in a stunning end to her mayorship,” turning rumors that were circulating on social media into a political firestorm.

Green apologized for sending that tweet, and Lightfoot denounced those rumors as “homophobic, racist and misogynistic.”

A month later, Green disrupted a news conference held by Lightfoot to blast her for blocking his effort to build a $15 million youth center on the site of the former Garrett Morgan Elementary School in Auburn-Gresham, which was closed by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Green is part of a national political movement launched during the 2016 presidential campaign by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont. 

Green served as a surrogate for Sanders during the 2020 presidential campaign, and was introduced by former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner at a launch rally held in Hyde Park Tuesday evening.

In a video launching his campaign, Green vowed to cut gun violence in half and create 10,000 new homeowners with mortgage assistance and help with down payments if elected mayor. 

See Green’s video here.

City officials must help Chicagoans buy a home in areas of the city where banks refused to back loans because Black people lived there, Green said. That will help reverse the drop in Chicago’s Black population, which dropped approximately 10% between 2010 and 2020, according to the 2020 census.

After ending his 2019 bid for mayor, Green pressured Chase Bank to step up efforts to invest in Chicago’s South and West side communities. WBEZ and City Bureau reported in June 2020 that for every $1 banks loaned in Chicago’s white neighborhoods, they invested just 12 cents in the city’s Black neighborhoods and 13 cents in Latino areas.

Eventually, Chase banned Green from its properties, accusing him of harassing their customers.

Green said he understood the corporate world, and would ensure that those firms the city does business with support all of Chicago neighborhoods. 

Green said Lightfoot should drop efforts to build a Bally’s casino in River West, saying projections that the casino would add $200 million to the city’s coffers were wildly overstated.

Green has not yet created a campaign committee with the Illinois State Board of Elections, records show. He closed the campaign he used during the 2019 race, records show.

Green joins state Rep. Kam Buckner (D-Chicago) in challenging Lightfoot from the left. Green has criticized Lightfoot’s decision to build the police and fire training facility started by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, blasted her decision to hire David Brown as the superintendent of the Chicago Police Department and her handling of the protests and unrest after the police murder of George Floyd in May 2020.

The 2023 race for mayor is growing increasingly crowded, with Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward), former CPS CEO Paul Vallas and Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th Ward) and Chicago Police Officer Frederick Collins joining Green, Wilson and Buckner.

Vallas, Wilson and Green all endorsed Lightfoot in the 2019 runoff against Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

“We all believed in her,” Green said. “We all had hope that she could be different than the rest. At the end of the day, we are at a time when we need a leader who is a collaborator.”

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

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