Johnson Vows to Continue Pushing ‘Big, Bold’ Agenda After Progressives See Some Disappointing Election Results

As the Chicago Board of Elections continues to tally votes following Tuesday’s primary election, a defiant Mayor Brandon Johnson told reporters he would not consider scaling back his “big, bold” progressive agenda.

Approximately 54% of voters were rejecting Ballot Question No. 1, better known as Bring Chicago Home, as of 12:35 a.m. Wednesday, according to unofficial totals from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

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“If anyone believes that one issue, that we still have to address, is going to cause me to put the brakes on my agenda, well, they missed the City Council agenda today, because we are moving forward with the $1.25 billion bonds deal that’s going to invest people, because that’s what I promised that’s what I was going to do and that’s what I’m doing,” Johnson said Wednesday. “Guess what? Buckle up.”

In the race for the Democratic nomination for Cook County state’s attorney, Eileen O’Neill Burke was leading Clayton Harris III on Wednesday by less than 9,500 votes, according to results tabulated by the Associated Press.

“No one said it was going to be easy,” Johnson said. “I’m very much committed. The fight still goes on. We’re going to keep organizing.”

Additional mail-in ballots from Chicago voters are expected to be counted Thursday, officials said.

Johnson, elected mayor with the enthusiastic support of the groups now behind Bring Chicago Home, said he still believes city officials have a moral obligation to house the more than 68,000 people who are unhoused or living doubled-up with friends and relatives.

Twice, Johnson reminded reporters that 70% of unhoused Chicagoans are Black — and noted that the measure won in areas of the city home to a majority of low-income voters.

While Johnson’s political foes celebrated the apparent failure of the ballot measure, he told reporters that a decision by city ethics officials prevented him from campaigning in favor of the measure.

“My record of being able to compel and campaign and convince” is unmatched, Johnson said. “There were some limitations on how I could engage in this moment. That was frustrating.”

The city’s ethics ordinance prohibits elected officials from campaigning for or against a ballot question while on duty or to use city resources as part of that effort.

“I wanted to campaign more,” Johnson said. “Heck yeah, I wanted to be out there. I’m a gamer. I wanted the ball. It sucked.” 

Johnson said he was frustrated by the “cowardly” opposition to the proposal known as Bring Chicago Home. Those voices “drowned out” the stories of Chicago families struggling to find stable housing.

“I'm still here, still standing,” said Johnson, who is less than a year into his term as mayor. “I will be punching back.”

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

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