Visit The TRiiBE Election Center to learn more about the upcoming 2023 Chicago municipal election. Click here to find your Chicago ward and police district.

Chicago’s 2023 municipal election season is now in full swing. A total of 345 people submitted their candidate nominating petitions by the Nov. 28 deadline, filing to run for coveted positions such as mayor, clerk, treasurer, alders and the newly-created Police District Councils.

And just like the 2019 municipal election in Chicago, the 2023 mayoral race is crowded again. Ten candidates have filed to run against mayoral incumbent Lori E. Lightfoot, who is also seeking a second term. That brings the total number of mayoral candidates to 11.

2023 mayoral candidates include local businessman Willie Wilson, who is entering the race for a second consecutive time; former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, who is running for a second consecutive time; Illinois State Rep. Kam Buckner; Cook County Board Commissioner Brandon Johnson; Ald. Sophia King, stepping down from her role as 4th Ward alder; community activist Ja’Mal Green, who is also entering the race for a second consecutive time; Chicago police officer Frederick Collins; freelance counselor Johnny Logalbo; Ald. Roderick Sawyer, who is stepping down from his role as 6th Ward alder and is the son of former Chicago mayor Eugene Sawyer; and U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who is running for a second time. 

Of those candidates, eight are Black. In the 2019 city election, six of the candidates were Black. Prior to Lightfoot’s election, Chicago hadn’t had a Black mayor in 30 years; Mayor Harold Washington died suddenly during his second term in 1987, and then-6th Ward alderman Eugene Sawyer was appointed to lead the city until his defeat by Richard M. Daley in the 1989 mayoral election. 

“We’ve had the Daleys and Rahm Emanuel in office for many years, and now that Lori Lightfoot was able to take office, I believe that we have Black leaders who feel like they have a chance or want to make a difference,” said Ariane Hicks, a millennial hailing from Chatham. 

Like with every election, there’s so much at stake. How do Black Chicagoans feel about there being so many Black candidates in the 2023 mayoral race? How will Black Chicagoans navigate choosing the best candidate in an overcrowded field? 

The question of whether or not there are too many Black candidates is based on a longtime question raised by Black Chicagoans about splitting the vote.  According to Chicago political reporter Monroe Anderson, Washington won the mayoral race by bringing together a coalition of Black, Latine and progressive white voters. After Washington’s untimely death, there was a split in the Black vote that led to Richard M. Daley winning the election in 1989 and maintaining power for nearly three decades. 

To find answers to those questions, The TRiiBE spoke to Black residents and political strategists about the 2023 mayoral race. 

Although opinions varied among different generations, all five of the people we spoke with agreed that whoever takes the reigns in 2023 will need to work to unite all Chicagoans, be business-oriented, have the best interest of Black Chicago at heart and be supportive of all communities; which includes investing in under-resourced Black and brown neighborhoods on the South and West Sides.

“What we should have done is we should have rallied around one candidate. It makes it easier for us [Black voters],” said Sheila Owens, a Douglas resident and member of Generation X. 

She doesn’t believe that there’s been enough political education made available to voters so that they can make informed choices for each race. She also believes some Black candidates could have dropped out of the race so that there would be one single candidate in the race. 

“I’m a little bewildered by all of these people that have jumped up and started campaigning,” she added. “I understand each of them has their own agenda, but it should be a common agenda because you’re serving one city. So I’m a little frustrated with that.” 

Owens pointed to Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th Ward). He initially planned to run for mayor but then withdrew from the race on Nov. 21, making way for Chicago’s Latine community to throw all their support behind Garcia should they choose to do so. 

Instead, Lopez will seek a third term in the Chicago City Council.

“You don’t see multiple Latino candidates in the race,” Chicago based-Democratic strategist Ron Holmes said. “Our community is the one that will be divided heading into at least the runoff. And that is an interesting proposition for those looking to build Black power across the board.”

Chicago voters can vote by mail beginning on Jan. 19 and early voting begins on Jan. 30. If no mayoral candidate gets 50 percent of the vote on Chicago’s election day (Feb. 28, 2023), then the top two candidates will face one another in a run-off in April 2023. 

The new term for mayor begins on May 15, 2023. 

Holmes said the current crop of Black candidates is a bit more talented than we saw in the 2019 Chicago mayoral election. Most of the 2023 candidates — including Lightfoot, Buckner, King, Sawyer and Johnson —  are currently serving as elected officials and have legislative records that voters can examine to make an informed decision on election day. 

There are also new faces like Johnson, for example, who has scored major endorsements from progressive organizations and labor unions such as the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and SEIU Local 73.


A sea of fresh faces in all the 2023 municipal races is exciting for some Black Chicago voters. So far, 15 City Council members have either stepped down, announced plans to retire, or launched campaigns to challenge Lightfoot in the 2023 mayoral election. 

“It’s really exciting. I think it speaks to the general demographic of Chicago— that Black people want to be represented in our government. We want to be the voice on a higher scale for our people because only we truly know what our people need,” said Aliyah, who resides in Rogers Park and is a member of Generation Z. (Reporter’s note: Aliyah asked The TRiiBE, not to include her last name in the article).

“I don’t think that’s a bad thing,” Samantha Grant said about there being eight Black candidates for mayor. She is a millennial who lives in the Tri-Taylor neighborhood. “It means people think they have a good shot of winning,” she added. “That’s how democracy works.”

Owens raised concerns about whether there’s enough time between now and the Feb. 28, 2023, municipal election for candidates to speak directly to voters across Chicago communities. 

She fondly recalled former mayor Washington’s grassroots campaign in the 1980s. She called it inclusive, referencing how Washington was able to create a Black and brown led coalition.

With today’s mayoral candidates, Owens says there’s a lack of outreach from them and their campaign teams. This could make it difficult for voters to make an informed choice if candidates aren’t dedicating enough time to engage with them before February. Holmes echoed her sentiments.

“Folks aren’t going to necessarily be able to interact with candidates in a meaningful way. You’re not going to get a bunch of candidates knocking on your door. So you’re basically going to get one or two sentences about a candidate, if you’re lucky, in a news story,” Holmes explained. 

Holmes added that Black candidates with an abundance of campaign dollars are more likely able to communicate their message to the masses through creative means. Other candidates, with less financial backing, have more limited options.

“You might get a robocall and see some yard sides, but you’re not going to be able to drill down to see what they believe, from a policy perspective, even the most highly informed voters,” Holmes said. 


Ald. Sophia King (4th Ward) poses with her nominating petitions for the mayoral race on Nov. 21 at the Chicago Board of Elections. She’s the only woman who filed to run against mayoral incumbent Lori E. Lightfoot. Photo provided.

What are Black Chicagoans looking for in a mayoral candidate?

When considering the best candidate for mayor, political strategist Larry Luster said to examine who has the ability to properly manage the city. 

“I’m looking at everything from trash being picked up to clean water. Does your toilet flush? Is your electricity on?” he explained. 

Luster, a partner at the Springfield-based Black lobbying firm GR Consulting, has worked on political issues across state, local and county federal governments, and campaigns for elected leaders, including U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias.   

“To take it a step further, that includes managing crime [and] managing business development. Have those things been moving forward? Those are things that I think voters will look at as they make their decisions,” he added. 

Jason Campbell, a millennial living in Washington Park, is looking for a candidate with a record of leading and making tough decisions. He believes Lightfoot has done a good job at managing crises throughout her first term. 

“At the end of the day, I think Lori has done a really good job of being an executive and surrounding herself with people that can do the work. At the end of the day, she’s pretty functional with what she’s done,” Campbell said. 

Most of the people that The TRiiBE spoke with weren’t familiar with each of the 2023 mayoral candidates. Some knew about Wilson because of his numerous gas and grocery giveaways throughout 2022 and during his 2019 campaign. 

Holmes said candidates like Johnson, King, Sawyer and Buckner have a significant hill to climb to gain more recognition citywide. For example, South Side residents may know King because she’s an alder on that side of the city, but residents on other sides of the city may not be familiar with her.

Hicks desires a mayoral candidate that will plug resources in communities on the South Side that have experienced years of disinvestment. 

“I’m looking for someone supportive of the communities, can provide the resources that we need, especially on the South side of Chicago and the impoverished areas. I would love to see one [candidate] that stands beside communities to create and support small businesses and different organizations that can help rebuild the South Side of Chicago,” she said.

is a multimedia reporter for The TRiiBE.