Written by Ethan Mort

On Tuesday, April 4th, Chicago will be voting again in a runoff to decide who will become their next mayor. Last month, the general election resulted in Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson being the top two candidates, defeating seven other candidates, including incumbent mayor Lori Lightfoot, who placed third. We saw $22M spent on the general election—the most spent on a Chicago mayoral election. So far, $12.4M has been spent on the runoff election, for a combined total of $34M. This marks a 79% increase in spending from 2019’s mayoral election total of $19M, of which $16M was spent on the general election, and $3M on the runoff. The Chicago mayoral general and runoff elections are the second and third most expensive elections of 2023 thus far, trailing only Wisconsin’s Supreme Court general election. 

A bar chart showing spending of past Chicago Mayoral elections

The top spender in the runoff has been Paul Vallas, with $7M, outspending Brandon Johnson by over $3M. There have been only two issue groups spending in the runoff, Priorities Chicago PAC, and Priorities Chicago, which are different advertisers both opposing Brandon Johnson.  

A bar and donut chart showing advertiser spending in the Chicago mayoral run off election.

Broadcast saw a majority of the spending throughout the runoff, totalling $7.8M, while other mediatypes saw a combined $4.6M. CTV has seen the second most spending at $2.2M, which is the fifth highest CTV expenditure on a 2023 election so far. We have recorded just $30K spent on digital advertising for this election. 

The most commonly discussed issue in Chicago mayoral ads has been crime. Vallas’s campaign has three times as many ads mentioning crime as Johnson’s campaign. Most of Vallas’s ads mentioning crime attack Johnson, such as this ad where he alleges Johnson wants to defund the police. Johnson responded to these ads by highlighting his plan to deploy mental health professionals, 200 new detectives, and developing a youth job program. Johnson’s most aired ad has been this attack ad against Vallas accusing him of wrecking Chicago’s schools finances, raising property taxes, and for being more of a Republican than a Democrat. In his ads, Vallas affirms that he is a pro-choice Democrat.

Read our deep dive analysis on the Chicago mayoral general election here 

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