Chicago mayor accuses foe of racist ‘dog whistle’ in contentious campaign

Mayoral candidate Paul Vallas' comments to crowds that his campaign is about "taking our city back" did not sit well with Lori Lightfoot, who is running for a second term.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has accused a rival of using “the ultimate dog whistle” as they engage in a divisive campaign to see who will lead the Windy City once voters head to the polls next Tuesday, Feb. 28.

According to The Chicago Tribune, mayoral candidate Paul Vallas’ comments to crowds that his campaign is about “taking our city back” did not sit well with Lightfoot.

“He’s saying in certain audiences that we have to take our city back,” Lightfoot said on Monday, The Tribune reported, questioning Vallas’ intent behind his remarks.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has accused her rival of using “the ultimate dog whistle” as the two engage in a divisive campaign to see who will lead the Windy City. (Photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo/AP)

“We don’t need that in our city,” she added. “And ‘take our city back’ meaning what? To what time? And take our city back from whom?”

During a campaign stop last week in Garfield Ridge, Chicago, Vallas told those gathered, “This whole campaign is about taking back our city, pure and simple.”

Vallas repeatedly attacked Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx in addition to his comments blasting Lightfoot. The mayoral candidate reminded the audience that Foxx was re-elected twice, encouraging them to take a different route with Lightfoot.

“Taking back our city begins at the ballot box,” Vallas noted, The Tribune reported. “Help me help you do that.”

Lightfoot’s remarks Monday come after rallies over the weekend where the mayor made controversial statements about voting while mobilizing Black people against Jesús “Chuy” Garcia, the sole Latino candidate, and Vallas, the only white challenger.

“Any vote coming from the South Side for somebody not named Lightfoot is a vote for ‘Chuy’ Garcia or Paul Vallas,” Lightfoot told attendees at campaign appearances in Chicago’s Black communities Saturday. “If you want them controlling your destiny, then stay home. Then don’t vote. But we’ve got to do better.”

Garcia and Vallas are the two non-Blacks of the other eight candidates for Chicago mayor.

Saturday night, Lightfoot’s campaign issued a statement reversing her earlier stance, declaring she “urges every Chicagoan to exercise their rights and get out to vote.”

In a statement on Monday, Vallas’ campaign denied any racial motivation for his controversial remarks and accused Lightfoot of trying to suppress the vote to help her campaign.

“Four years of failure are catching up to Mayor Lightfoot and she’s desperately lashing out in every direction to cling to a spot in the runoff,” Vallas’ campaign shared in a statement Monday, The Tribune reported. 

The campaign described Vallas as “a lifelong, pro-choice Democrat and champion for LGBT rights” who plans to prioritize crime reduction and public safety.

“He’s not going to let Mayor Lightfoot or anyone else distract him from that message,” their statement said.

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