Chicago, my hometown, is a killing field. Yet another American city where justice only exists for criminals – while never-ending heartbreak arrives daily for victims and their families.
This is why Chicago’s April 4th mayoral final is both very personal for me – and a matter of life or death for Chicagoans.
New York has been here before. In late 2021, Eric Adams ran for New York City mayor largely on his record as a 20+ year veteran of the New York City Police. Much like his predecessor Rudolph Giuliani, Adams promised to get tough on crime and better support New York’s finest. So far he’s delivered mixed results.
Although murders are down, overall crime continues to rise; serious assaults, for instance (including rape) were up 18% at the start of 2023.
And the numbers – I can personally attest – are even worse in Chicago.
On June 24th, 2022 my life changed forever when my baby brother Christian – who’d just turned 18 – was murdered on the streets of Chicago’s South Side. Christian wasn’t the target of the shooting, the police determined.
He was merely standing outside on a Friday morning when a black SUV pulled up and a handful of men began firing. Police later counted 50 shell casings littered on the ground.
Christian just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
And in Chicago, like too many other American cities, being in the wrong place can easily get you killed.
Later that night, news reports described what had happened: A shooting in the Morgan Park area, “three people shot, and an 18-year-old pronounced dead.”
Christian had become yet another murdered kid in Chicago. No picture. No name. Just one of nearly 700 murder victims citywide last year.
There was no surprise, then, that during the recent Chicago mayor’s race, crime was all voters were talking about.
Incumbent mayor Lori Lightfoot tried to frame her re-election around her efforts at “making Chicago safe.” But this was gaslighting at its worst.
Mayor Lightfoot and Cook County prosecutor policies are directly to blame for the thousands of murders and shootings within the City of Chicago over the past few years – including the murder of my innocent brother.
Under Lightfoot’s “leadership,” Chicago crime has only increased – first to 804 murders in 2021 followed by nearly 700 last year.
These are numbers not seen in the Windy City for over a quarter century.
Chicago also racked up more than 20,000 cases of theft in 2022, nearly double the previous year, according to the Chicago Police Department.
And, in the first three weeks of 2023, city crime rates skyrocketed by another 61%, police say.
Thankfully, Chicago voters weren’t fooled by Lightfoot’s foolishness.
In February, they emphatically rejected Lightfoot, who failed to reach the run-off round in the nine-person primary – the first incumbent to do so in 40 years.
Her attempts to cast the defeat around being Black and a lesbian – she was both in 2019, when elected – fell short. Chicagoans know why she was their last choice.
Now the race comes down to just two men: Paul Vallas, a white moderate with a tough-on-crime agenda, and Brandon Johnson, a black progressive with the support of the Chicago Teachers Union.
While both men are Democrats, each has vastly different visions of Chicago’s future.
The centrist Vallas believes in school choice and fiscal responsibility.
He supports the police while holding them accountable for misconduct.
He’s also been critical of Cook County prosecutor Kim Foxx, who’s dropped more than 25,000 felony cases during her tenure, including rape and murder.
So, it was no surprise when Vallas received the Chicago Police Union’s endorsement.
Johnson, on the other hand, has advocated for defunding the police and has openly defended rioters and looters.
Most bafflingly, he’s described Foxx as “a part of the type of reform that’s needed” for the city, despite her penchant for keeping bad guys on the street.
She “has led with an incredible amount of integrity,” said Johnson of Foxx during a recent debate.
This is the same prosecutor who was investigated for dropping charges against actor Jussie Smollett for his infamous “gay bashing” hoax in 2020.
Johnson’s priorities are not in line with the needs of Chicagoans, particularly black Chicagoans whose bodies will continue to litter the streets if he becomes mayor.
Johnson, like Lightfoot before him, has attempted to make this election largely about race.
And why not? Pitting black voters against Vallas, the “White candidate,” is cheap and easy.
But it doesn’t need to be effective. Black or white – I’m only interested in the best candidate. And I pray that most Chicagoans, of all colors, reach the same conclusion.
Chicago is in desperate need of change.
Not just the promise of change, but the delivery of safety and security for all.
And Paul Vallas is the only remaining candidate who can deliver that change.
As New York City demonstrates, even electing a former police chief is no guarantee that campaign promises to end crime will be achieved.
If elected mayor, Vallas, and the Windy City have the opportunity to become a model for other besieged American cities looking to reclaim their streets from violence and impunity.
In memory of my brother, I can only pray that they – that we – take that opportunity straight to the ballot box.
Gianno Caldwell is a Fox News political analyst and the author of “Taken for Granted: How Conservatism Can Win Back the Americans That Liberalism Failed” (Crown Forum).
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