GOP Donors Line Up Behind ‘Lifelong Democrat’ In Key Race

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Republican donors are supporting “lifelong Democrat” Paul Vallas in the Chicago mayoral race, citing the former school administrator’s positions on crime and education.

Golf course developer Michael Keiser, who gave more than $246,000 to Republican candidates during the 2022 midterms, has staked $700,000 to Vallas’ campaign. John Canning, a private equity executive who gave to both parties in 2022, donated $100,000 to Vallas, as did equity advisor James N. Perry, Jr. Polls show Vallas running neck-and neck with former Democratic Rep. Chuy Garcia, and incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot in third.

“From my perspective, [Lightfoot] really doesn’t appreciate that the city’s in a crisis,” GOP donor Craig Duchossois, who supported the incumbent in 2019, told The Chicago Tribune of a conversation he had with Lightfoot. “My answer is, ‘I’m not going to support you. I know you’re well intended, but you’re not effective.’”

Chicago mayor elect Lori Lightfoot speaks during the election night party in Chicago, Illinois on April 2, 2019. (KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

The Chicago mayoral race is non-partisan, although a Republican has not held the executive job since 1931. Lightfoot has pilloried Vallas as a Republican, writing in an email to supporters that the challenger “has so strongly aligned himself with Republican views that he can’t even be considered a moderate Democrat.”

“What I feel like I am listening to a version of Extreme Makeover: Paul Vallas edition,” she said at a recent debate. Vallas has described himself as a “lifelong Democrat” in response to the attacks. (RELATED: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot Told Employees ‘My D*ck Is Bigger Than Yours,’ Lawsuit Alleges)

During Lightfoot’s tenure as mayor, Chicago’s murder rate has skyrocketed. She has alternately blamed COVID-19-related shutdowns and guns trafficked in from states like Mississippi for the death toll. Murders rose from 500 in 2019, the year Lightfoot took office, to 688 in 2022. The city set a record for most homicides in 2021, according to data compiled by the Chicago Police Department.

The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police has endorsed Vallas, who is pledging to fire police superintendent David Brown and hire more officers.

Lightfoot also presided over multiple teachers’ strikes. The Chicago Teachers’ Union walked out in 2019 over an offered pay raise that officers felt did not go far enough, and educators refused to teach in-person in early 2022 amid a spike in COVID-19 cases. The union is supporting Cook County commissioner Brandon Johnson, who is polling in fifth place.

Vallas supports opening charter and vocational schools throughout Chicago, and alleges that the city’s schools are “complicit in a systemic disinvestment in children.”