Crime poses an existential threat to the city of Chicago.

“That’s the issue facing voters Feb. 28.”

By Steve Huntley

February 26, 2023

Major crime in Chicago is up 104 percent in the last two years. So what’s the issue that Mayor Lori Lightfoot wants Chicagoans to focus on in the Feb. 28 primary campaign?

That some people who have endorsed the mayoral candidacy of Paul Vallas also happen to like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has managed to surpass Donald Trump as enemy No. 1 for Democrats.

And what has brought this urgent issue to the forefront of the hard-fought contest to lead the city that used to work? 

DeSantis was featured at a “Back the Blue” event in Elmhurst Monday. That gathering was, as the Sun-Times put it, “promoted by the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police though not organized by them.” The FOP of course has endorsed Vallas as the best candidate to tackle Chicago’s out-of-control crime crisis.

Since the FOP is formally backing Vallas and informally boosted the DeSantis event, Lightfoot jumped to the spurious conclusion that “Vallas has wrapped his arms around the far-right fringe of the Republican Party.” Guilt by association by proxy. Political claptrap.

Such is the desperation of Lightfoot’s effort to hold on to the job she has bungled for the last four years. Desperation breeds desperate ranting and raving.

No one should be surprised by this. America has a long history of candidates with miserable records and positions on issues the voters care about trying to get the voters to look the other way. 

And this usually translates into an appeal to tribal politics. Hey, forget that guy’s policies you like because he’s not like you, he’s from the enemy tribe.

And in today’s liberal, progressive, far-left culture, DeSantis is the bete noire. The possibility of the Florida governor running for president — and winning — is seen as so threatening to liberals that the New York Times, the New Yorker and Vanity Fair all have published articles openly hostile to DeSantis.

He espouses popular Trump policies, doesn’t shy away from a confrontation with unfriendly media but doesn’t have the obnoxious personality traits and disregard for facts that have made Trump and candidates he endorses unpopular at the ballot box. 

DeSantis is not afraid to fight back against the far left’s jihad against America culture. He opposes sex education for kids in kindergarten and grades one through three. He is against biological males playing women’s sports and denying women trophies and sports records. And he objects to the use of school classrooms to push radical and divisive theories about race.

What’s more, DeSantis navigated the Covid 19 pandemic without the hysteria of other governors who shut down their economies, kept schools closed to the detriment of kids and issued mask and vaccine mandates. 

Florida is gaining population while Illinois is losing it. Among those moving from Chicago to Florida are cops. CBS-Chicago found “a growing number of Chicago Police officers” moving to Florida, including eight who recently signed up with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. That’s hardly surprising given the soft-on-crime policies of Lightfoot, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans.

Back in the streets of Chicago, sexual assaults and robberies have increased 23 percent so far this year and car thefts 151 percent. Murders, while dipping a bit from last year, are still 58 percent higher than before the Lightfoot era, reports the CWB crime news site in an analysis of Chicago Police Department statistics.

Is it any wonder that the mayor wants to deflect the voting public’s attention from those dismal numbers?

Throw in the belief that Vallas is the front runner in the primary race and you get distracting, untrustworthy and false campaign rhetoric trying to tie Vallas to DeSantis. 

Congressman Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, generally believed to be locked into a three-way race with Lightfoot and Vallas in the primary to determine the two candidates to face off in an April runoff, joined in the Vallas bashing over DeSantis.

Vallas responded with a denunciation of the Florida governor that would have made President Biden, the progress “Squad” in Congress and the New York Times proud. He echoed the lies, misinformation and disinformation about the commonsense approach DeSantis pursues in defending traditional American and family values. 

It wasn’t Vallas’s finest hour. But he can perhaps be forgiven as he is locked in a do-or-die battle for the future of Chicago.

Even before this episode, Lightfoot and Garcia were targeting Vallas with accusations that he’s a closet Republican. Not surprising. Anyone who’s for law and order in the streets, the city’s magnificent retail and business centers, and the neighborhoods has to be a Republican, right?

But anyone who’s followed Vallas’ career, such as his tenure as Chicago public school’s chief, would have a hard time labeling him anything other than the classic do-gooder in the liberal tradition of American politics. Vallas calls himself a “pretty progressive Democrat.”

He may be something that the hard left just can’t understand — a progressive who believes that safe streets and neighborhoods are a fundamental requirement to advance liberal goals. 

Back in the streets of Chicago, nearly two thirds of the city’s voters planning to cast ballots Feb. 28 don’t feel safe from crime. That’s the finding of a poll commissioned by the Sun-Times, WBEZ, Telemundo Chicago and NBC5. A recent JohnKassNews article brings that poll’s findings to life by painting a vivid portrait of a city crushed by crime that is driving families to leave, in this writer’s case to the safe haven of DeSantis Florida.

But Lightfoot, Garcia and others trying to hold off Vallas want you to know there’s another reason to vote against him beyond the DeSantis and closet Republican nonsense. 

Vallas, they harumph, is against abortion.

Never mind that a mayor has nothing to do with abortion. That issue is a state responsibility and prerogative, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Dobbs decision restoring democratic authority to legislatures on abortion.

Vallas, a Greek Orthodox Christian, follows other politicians like President Joe Biden and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, both Catholics, in bowing to his church on abortion as a religious and moral matter but leaving it to government as a political and legal matter. He would do nothing — and could do nothing — as mayor to restrict it. 

In fact, Vallas doubled down on this political philosophy, saying as mayor he would protect access to abortion. “I have always been an unequivocal, uncompromising supporter of women’s reproductive rights.”

Back in the streets of Chicago, nearly all of the city’s police districts are recording double-digit increases in major crime this year, reports CWB Chicago. The news site daily reports outrages. A baby and two teens killed in a shooting on I-57 near 111th Street. Two women and a man assaulted on the North Side — the alleged assailant out on bail for kicking two cops. A “Puffy Coat Bandit” ring robbing restaurant patrons in Lincoln Park and the Near North Side. Three dead in an organized “sideshow” of reckless auto antics at a major South Side intersection. 

The issue facing Chicago voters is not Ron DeSantis. It’s not fantasies of Vallas being a closet Republican. It’s not some wholly imaginary threat to abortion access.

Crime poses an existential threat to the city of Chicago.

That’s the issue facing voters Feb. 28. 

They shouldn’t let Lightfoot, Garcia or anyone else distract them with tribal politics appealing to emotion over reason.

Lightfoot’s record on crime speaks for itself. Garcia is a committed progressive who had to admit that voters would be surprised to hear him push for hiring more police officers — and voters shouldn’t forget that a tiger doesn’t change its stripes. The other candidate near the top three, Brandon Johnson, a tool of the Chicago Teachers Union, is in the defund-the-police camp.

All the tribal politics flack over DeSantis, closet Republican frenzy and abortion distraction can’t hide from Chicago voters the candidate best suited to wage the battle against Chicago’s crime crisis.


Steve Huntley, a retired Chicago journalist now living in Austin, Texas, has contributed other pieces to johnkassnews, from an examination of the secret jail for Christopher Columnbus and other politically problematic public art to an essay on Americans suffering from Joe Biden gas pain.

For almost three decades Huntley spent most of his career in Chicago journalism at the Chicago Sun-Times, where he was a feature writer, metro reporter, night city editor, metropolitan editor, editorial page editor and a columnist for the opinion pages.

Before that he was a reporter and editor with United Press International (UPI) in the South and Chicago, and Chicago bureau chief and a senior editor in Washington with U.S. News & World Report. Northwestern University Press has issued soft cover and eBook editions of Knocking Down Barriers: My Fight for Black America by Truman K. Gibson Jr. with Steve Huntley, a memoir of a Chicagoan who was a member of President Roosevelt’s World War II Black Cabinet working to desegregate the military.

Comments 36

  1. Steve, great column. I hope the people of Chicago realize the choice they make in this election has to be to restore safety to the city. Without people feeling safe to be in the city economic prosperity will not happen.

  2. Thanks Steve, The reality that a person would even consider voting for Lightfoot after 4 years of her is a slap in the face to common sense. “Thank you sir may I have another?”

  3. “Look at the shiny object over there”, instead of the real issues, like crime, with which we are infected, is the mantra of many. “Russian Disinformation, Hunter’s laptop, classified materials next to a vintage Corvette in a garage” and other things are nothing but new “shiny objects” to take the minds of gullible people off of what is really happening. And so many of the (sic) “media”, hollywood glitterati, and others promote it every time, and it works!

    My Dad was right when he said “People get the kind of politicians that they deserve”. Great column, Mr. Huntley, thanks for focusing on something that is real and not just another “shiny object”.

  4. Let’s not forget that us outside of Chicago feel your pain and know that Chicago policies affect us greatly. Although we can’t vote in Chicago we fear the crime because it’s just a short drive down 80 to reach us too. I pray Valas makes the runoff and then wins and brings some common sense back to the city that used to work

    1. Are you sure you’re not voting, on Tuesday? I was thinking that I wasn’t either, then I remembered the first lesson of Chicago politics I learned as a volunteer poll watcher, shortly after I had moved into East Lakeview.

      I had drawn the short straw and was dispatched to deliver all of the cast and uncast ballots (in separate bags) to the high-school auditorium on the north side that was serving as the tabulation center. Upon entering the auditorium, I was greeted by some patronage worker who first took the bag of un-cast ballots and tossed it (unopened) into a bin labeled, Democrat (a much smaller bin next to it was labeled, Republican). I was relieved of the bag of cast ballots by another patronage worker – I can only guess what happened to those.

      I left feeling sad, but also much, much wiser.

      1. What you seem to be saying is that the uncast ballots (i.e. printed but unused because John Q. Public failed to vote) were set aside to be marked after the polls closed. Do I have that right? If so, that’s a pretty slick way to steal an election, isn’t it? Your candidate is losing to a Republican? Just grab some of those ballots in the bin marked “Democrat” and mark them as voting for your guy.

  5. A short while ago, John and Jeff sent an open invitation to all of the candidates to send in an open letter essay explaining why they should be the next mayor of Chicago. I was just wondering how many have taken them up on the offer, and will we be able to read them? My guess is, you probably only received 1, maybe 2 letters.
    On a side note, I hope John is improving with his recovery and physical therapy.

  6. Not his finest hour? Actually, he showed us that he’s just another pol that will do and say anything to get elected. He later tried to deflect on the issue, which is what he should have done first. I had hopes for a Vallas admin, but I am now doubtful that he will succeed if elected.

    Nice try on the “clean up in aisle 4” though. Much of your post is spot on.

  7. The great SteveHuntley casts a cold and sober eye upon Tuesday’s Mayoral election -” The issue facing Chicago voters is not Ron DeSantis. It’s not fantasies of Vallas being a closet Republican. It’s not some wholly imaginary threat to abortion access.

    Crime poses an existential threat to the city of Chicago.

    That’s the issue facing voters Feb. 28. ”

    Vote for Vallas. It is that simple.

  8. Paul Vallas has introduced plans to overhaul the leadership of CPD, hire more police, put more offices in contact with the community, patrol the CTA. He’s eve said he would try to bring back retired detectives to help with the abysmal murder clearance rate.

    Let’s also mention the obvious in this identity politics, group think, Stockholm syndrome political scene. These are minority candidates, who want to lead a city that is majority minority, who are under siege from criminals, and these hacks, who have live in relative luxury and have private security in some cases, waste time talking about race, the abortion stance if their opponent. It’s like offering water to a drowning person!

    How do they expect people to fall for this bilge?

    Paul has also stated a clear plan to reorganize the schools and other city services, and put the city back on more solid financial footing. He’s identified problem issues, he’s offered solutions, and is willing to engage. Instead of engaging, debating, offering alternative proposals, and delineating why they would be better leaders, they use race, gender, abortion?

    They have nothing. They are relying on an uninformed, head in the sand electorate, who would rather hear what they want to hear instead of real life.

    The Tribune, and Greg Pratt specifically, should be ashamed of themselves. What passes for media these days is also upsetting. Corporate and elitists control of a message used to manipulate the masses and essentially steal form them and ignore their basic safety, a they talk about anything else.

  9. Great column Steve! As an X-suburbanite of Chicago, born and raised, who worked downtown in the loop for 20+years, I also recently moved to Florida. My mom and pop were JFK democrats, switching to Reagan after the 70’s.
    I say We the People need to take back control and support our common sense politicians and elect them based upon their unifying beliefs. Sanity must rule, regardless of tribal affiliations.

    “… the main increase in crime is proportionate to the decrease in punishment.”
    ~Ronald Reagan.. from the book ‘Reagan in His Own Hand’.

  10. I really struggle to believe that the voters of Chicago somehow don’t realize how horrid mayor Lightfoot is. If you re-elect her you get what you deserve right? I just don’t understand, given her record of destruction, how you can vote for her. Please don’t. Chicago needs to get back to work and they will not, cannot under her regime.

    1. Any rational person would agree with you. The trouble is the notion that the voters will decide the election – Stalin was right: it’s who counts the votes, and how they are counted, that matters.

      Sensible-Shoes Tony gave the machine her blessing to cede the election to Beetlejuice in 2018 (likely knowing what train-wreck its tenure would be), I’m guessing that whoever “wins” will be whoever Tony prefers.

  11. Well stated, Steve

    I’ve said it once, twice maybe more and I’ll say it again. Vallas is the most logical choice who should not even go to a runoff, and for that reason, given the foolish electorate, he probably won’t win.

    The same fools re-elected Foxx, Pritzker, and Preckwinkle. I rest my case, nuff said.

  12. Great column. Vallas is he only one with the cojones to go after the real problem — crime. I used the pea under the shell analogy befits. Shiny objects—distract, deflect, blame. I was at O’Hare last night and notes several pictures of the mayor as I walked around. The Daley’s might not have been the best but for the average citizen the city worked. Police could and did do their job, garbage got picked up and the schools were not filled with teachers who were pushing an agenda on small children who didn’t know any better.

  13. Great article! Here’s the issue I have with this whole election: It’s the Chicago way. Everything is politics. True, Vallas may be the best to fight crime. But things are so calculated and predictable. Why should he “be forgiven as he is locked in a do-or-die battle for the future of Chicago”? Can we EVER get candidates who speak the truth and don’t play political games to win? It’s frustrating.

  14. “..Vote for me or you ain’t black!..” A famous man once said that. I guess your membership card would be revoked if you didn’t. Identity politics has always been used in Chicago to keep the horses in the corral. The familiar racist tropes and dog whistles have been trotted out by Lightfoot to detract from her record of being the worst mayor in Chicago history. The fact that she thinks she even has a chance at reelection proves she’s delusional. The people she is appealing to are the ones burying their children on a regular basis thanks to her efforts. When she says she still has work to do she’s absolutely correct. She’s only half destroyed the city, now she wants to totally destroy it. Strangely enough I have to go to Breitbart to get the weekend tally of shootings/ murders since Chicago media rarely reports on these numbers. You only have to read any article in the Tribune regarding local politics to see the bias in reporting on crime during this election. Hopefully the voters in Chicago come to their senses and run her out of that office and the city. I’m pretty sure she’ll move on when she loses. I mean why would you stay in Chicago if you didn’t have to? Don’t you know its too damned dangerous with all that crime!

  15. Thanks Steve for alerting all those chumbolones out there to get off their butts and vote for Vallas. He’s the only one with (albeit) a slim chance to win the mayoral race. We can only hope and pray that sanity can once again be found in the mayor’s office, and we can finally start ridding ourselves of the Soros minions in the prosecutors’ offices, and rein in crime that has rotted the city for past two years. Let us pray…..

  16. As someone who was at the DeSantis event in Elmhurst on Monday, the Bolsheviks have good reason to fear him. The overflow crowd was wowed by his speech and energy. They had to turn people away before he took the stage. Mayor Miserable displaying her flim-flammery in the death throes of her re-election should be ignored like everything else she says!

  17. “‘Vallas has wrapped his arms around the far-right fringe of the Republican Party.'”

    This must be the shocking development to which Beetlejuice’s campaign was referring to in the text message recieved by me, yesterday afternoon as my wife and I were driving home from viewing a matineé showing of the film, “Jesus Revolution.” How my phone number ended up in that despot’s campaign’s database is beyond me, but I doubt it was acquired legally – certainly not ethically.

    “…he can perhaps be forgiven as he is locked in a do-or-die battle for the future of Chicago.”

    Perhaps…we’ll see.

    “But anyone who’s followed Vallas’ career…would have a hard time labeling him anything other than the classic…liberal [in the] tradition of American politics. Vallas calls himself a ‘pretty progressive Democrat.'”

    Were I voting in the election on Tuesday (and who knows? Perhaps I am, despite having been gone from Chicago since 2018) – so, were I consciously voting in the election on Tuesday, Vallas’ seemingly tenuous grasp of what is “progressive Democrat” in today’s political landscape might give me pause.

  18. The crime statistic reports compare absolute numbers from one time period to another. They are terrible. With the population of the city dropping, it may make a per-capita crime rate even worse.

  19. “DeSantis is not afraid to fight back against the far left’s jihad against America culture.” What exactly is this “American Culture?” Who defines it? Who judges? Who punishes? DeSantis is a would-be emperor who is building a brand based on grievance, anger, resentment, Christian Nationalism (meaning Christ without compassion, empathy or love) and authoritarianism. His petty war with Disney (the state’s largest employer) over a perceived slight is, quite literally, anti-conservative. He has thousands of miles of beaches and sunny skies, who wouldn’t want to live there? He has made himself the Commander of the far right’s never ending and manufactured culture war in the hope that every old white guy falls in line. He’s not conservative, not even close. And, personal prediction, he will never be President. Emperor DeSantis might play well in Florida’s center, swamps, meth and ramshackle building codes, but it will never play nationally. We can debate crime all day, and its a debate that needs to happen, but DeSantic is not the solution, not even close.

    1. Sorry, but no. I live here in Florida, prototypical transplanted Chicago old school Daley loving Dem. I recommend that you take a trip down here to see what DeSantis is really doing, and not take the word of the news media, or worse yet pols like Lori and JB. You’ll be surprised to find the narrative doesn’t come near matching the facts.

      1. I saw the press conference regarding Disney and Reedy Creek, almost everything he said was a lie. Why not be a man, admit you are penalizing Disney for speaking out against the DSG legislation? Why the theater? Just another man-baby.

  20. Excellent article.
    I am a big fan of Mr. Huntley.
    Liberal, Democrat voters, no matter their zip code…liberal base want their platform and agenda-their liberal cause items front and center on the ballot.
    If their “big picture” items; if their ideologies are threatened, then it’s a call to arms and to turn out because the crucial message to the liberal base that their freedoms will be taken away by Republicans or people who look and act like Republicans (Vallas).
    Our own governor made it clear that red state governors, especially Florida, aren’t welcomed in Illinois? Was this a tacit endorsement of Lightfoot? Or was Gov. Twinkie the Kid espousing his disgust for Illinois Republicans in general? But, we are ALL Illinoisans, right?
    So, Vallas has to spend time on defense, which is actually what his opponents expects. That’s the “go to” play from the Democrats’ playbook. While they have their hand your pocket, they pull a quarter out from behind your ear. “How do they do that”? Voters are mesmerized.
    Look; “doing favors” crossed the line into corruption decades ago in and around Chicago. Not long after, the legacy media followed a similar path. The Democrats’ echo chamber was on blast.
    Thanks to patriotic and principled journalists-many who can be found at, word is getting out that CRIME is a major voter issue EVERYWHERE; not just Chicago.
    Let me ask a question: what kind of a world do we live in where a long-time Chicago city alderman can be indicted and convicted of corruption while his wife presides as the chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court? Is it really that hard to believe that corruption is a contagion that spreads through our streets, homes, schools, governments and court systems?
    Then, your pronoun is “jaded”.

  21. Thank you Steve for your words and stats along with your bio history of accomplishments. I never read the Sun Times and perhaps I missed it’s most relevant person. God bless you.
    We do not live in Chicago, but I was born and raised there until my fourth grade. My memories of ability to roam, as a child, the streets of Chicago with no fear serve as a distinct and pleasant memory…..yes, things have changed and I no longer wish nor will attend anything in Chicago. Yes, I have missed several family gatherings, but I am steadfast to not cross that eastern border that separates my family and our safety. Yes, I am not alone with these feelings.
    Steve, stay well and keep on keeping on…John, may God continue to bless you in your recovery and stay well….we all relish you and your words and miss you. We hope your chef’s abilities will not be tarnished for the Easter lamb coming up in a while…

  22. ..and by “unfriendly media” do you mean “any reporter that has the audacity to ask DeSantis a difficult or challenging question?” How dare they do their job! DeSantis demands respect! Fealty! Fall in line or become Disney, the ‘guest’ in the state of Florida who also happens to be the largest employer and revenue generator. Cross Ron’s cultural no man’s land and he will slap the taxpayers with billions in bond payments, just to get even. Vallas is wise to keep his distance, DeSantis is toxic.

    1. So what you really mean is Desantis will make a great president. All kidding aside, the dream ticket would be Trump for president and Desantis as veep. This way we would get the White House for at least twelve years. You don’t think any sane person would vote for Biden and the Democrats again after this disastrous term ends? Biden made an elderly man happy on his deathbed. Jimmy Carter’s place in history is secure. He is no longer the worst president in modern times. Trump/ Desantis in 2024 seems far fetched but we can dream, right Tony?

      1. It won’t ever happen, probably for 2 reasons: They are both from the same state, and politically that makes no sense at all. Must have some sort of geographical balance; and, DeSantis would never subject himself to the way Trump treats people who he perceives might have done anything but properly genuflect in his presence. Mike Pence learned that. DeSantis is good – he doesn’t need to follow Trump anywhere. He’s smart, and his background is A+.

      2. Trump is not fit to be president. We really wont know about DeSsantis unless he gets a chance as they all lie and get skewed coverage in the campaign. If you want a Republican,I’d like to recommend Asa Hutchinson, Scott from SC, Tom Cotton, Mitch Daniels, there are lots of sane, actual conservatives who don’t seek the cult of personality and venality of Trump.

  23. Yesterday, I received a text from a Preckwinckle stooge saying Vallas was a racist. No joke. Talk about tribal politics. Lightfoot, Preckwinkle, and the rest of the corrupt city leadership (if you can call it that) have nothing to show for their records, so they play the race card. How pathetic! Hopefully, the chumbolones won’t prevail no Tuesday.

  24. Wow. You really missed the boat here: “The other candidate near the top three, Brandon Johnson, …” Near the top three? How about amongst the top TWO? In fact Mr. Johnson has a good chance of becoming the next Mayor of Chicago … in that case we will all miss the “halcyon days of Lori.”

    1. Yikes. Do you mean to say that enough Chicago voters actually thought that the “Let’s Go Brandon” cheer actually referred to *your* guy, and in a *positive* way at that?
      Hokey Smokes, Bullwinkle…

  25. Holy smokes, Batman … I told ya so. Brandon is Brandon Johnson. Get used to it. Dust up on your woke catechism. He may very well be the next Mayor of Chicago. O for the good ole days of Lori Lightweight. LOL.

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