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Saturday, June 22, 2024

THIS WEEK TODAY: National, State and Local Temperature Checks (3/9/23)

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National

Last week, on February 28, incumbent Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) lost re-election, becoming the first incumbent to do so since the 1980s. 

Chicago’s mayoral election works

similarly to how runoffs work in some states. All candidates, regardless of party, appear on one ballot. If a candidate receives over 50% of the vote, they are declared the winner. If no candidate reaches a majority, the top two vote-receivers advance to the second round, while all other candidates are eliminated.

The first round’s top two candidates were Paul Vallas, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, and Brandon Johnson, Cook County Commissioner.

Lori Lightfoot (pictured above) achieved recognition in 2019, when she became the first openly lesbian black woman to serve as mayor of a major U.S. city. Lightfoot championed her 2019

run on lowering crime and addressing  quality of life issues in the city.

Forecasters and analysts agreed that a brutal primary was in store this year, not only as Lightfoot’s approval rating continued to sink, but as a crowded nine-candidate primary formed to take her job. Polling ahead of the primary was competitive, while Lightfoot’s approval stood at only the high 20s ahead of the election. She enjoyed above-water numbers until July 2021.

Lightfoot also governed under a particularly difficult time in American history, as she navigated the city through the COVID-19 Pandemic, the 2020 summer riots, as well as general and economic malaise that took the country by storm in 2021. The ensuing crime waves have only made Chicago’s already-prominent crime problem worse.

Paul Vallas, who placed a distant ninth in the 2019 mayoral primary, soared ahead of the pack in last week’s primary. In addition to serving as CEO of Vallas (pictured above) has run a tough-on-crime campaign, while touting his administrative record in the school systems in different states. He secured 33% of the vote and first place in the primary, finishing well ahead of Brandon Johnson in second place with 21% of the vote.

Brandon Johnson, the Cook County Commissioner, has run a more liberal campaign. He is a self avowed “progressive” and was the only candidate in the race to not suggest hiring more police officers to deal with the rampant crime issues. He looks to address “root causes” of crimes and invest in mental health services and an increase in the detective ranks of the force.

All candidates in the primary were of the Democratic Party. The last Republican to serve as mayor of Chicago was William H. “Big Bill” Thompson; he left office in 1931.

Vallas has been described as a nominal Democrat, with some likening his positions to those of the GOP. However, his base has been clearly marked by last week’s showing, signaling a shift in mood in the heavily-Democratic city that could give both parties an idea of what works and what does not work on the campaign trail ahead of 2024.

State

About 500 protestors shut down the Manhattan Bridge during Monday morning rush hour on March 6 to urge Governor Kathy Hochul (D) and the state Legislature to include more provisions for laborers who require unemployment benefits during times of need. They are lobbying the governor to establish the so-called “Unemployment Bridge Program,” which would provide unemployment compensation to workers not typically covered by standard unemployment benefits. They are requesting this for the 2024 budget.

This program would provide unemployment benefits for those excluded from typical coverage, such as immigrants – based on their status – freelancers, self-employed workers, undocumented workers, and formerly incarcerated workers.

This is not the first time the group has collaborated to protest. In 2021, the group marched across the Brooklyn Bridge for similar legislation, which was included in the next budget as the Excluded Workers Fund, coming in at $2.1 billion.

The groups who attended Monday’s march include: Desis Rising Up, Laborers Local 79, Make the Road New York, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, New Immigrant Community Empowerment, NY Taxi Workers, Release Aging People in Prison Campaign and the Street Vendor Project.

Local

Congressman Andrew Garbarino (R-Lindenhurst) (pictured above right) of the Second District has cosponsored a piece of legislation entitled “Law Enforcement Officers’ Equity Act.”

Garbarino joined two Democrats and one Republican to sponsor the bill.

The bill would “guarantee that police officers across the federal government receive their full retirement benefits. Because of a loophole in the law, thousands of federal law enforcement officers cannot receive enhanced retirement benefits. This legislation would expand and secure full federal benefits to tens of thousands of officers.”

Matt Meduri
Matt Meduri
Matt Meduri has served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Messenger Papers since August 2023. He is the author of the America the Beautiful, Civics 101, and This Week Today columns. Matt graduated from St. Joseph's University, Patchogue, in 2022, with a degree in Human Resources and worked for his family's IT business for three years. He's also a musician and composer with his sights set on the film industry. Matt has traveled all around the U.S. and enjoys cooking, photography, and a good cup of coffee.