U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin has thrown his support behind Paul Vallas in the April 4 Chicago mayoral runoff, calling the election an “extraordinary” moment in the city’s history.
Durbin, D-Ill., said he thought “long and hard” about making an endorsement and finally chose to “come off the comfort of the sidelines.”
“I respect both candidates in the race. And I thought, quite honestly, I know Paul Vallas so well,” said Durbin — for over 40 years, he added.
“I didn’t want to lose the fact that — at this moment in history when we need such leadership and innovative thinking in the city of Chicago — we have an extraordinary opportunity,” Durbin said.
Some other major players in state politics, including Gov. J.B. Pritzker, have not taken sides.
Durbin made the endorsement Sunday, with former Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White at his side, at Athena Restaurant on Halsted Street in Greektown, as saganaki was set afire just feet away.
Durbin tried to shake off accusations that Vallas is secretly a Republican.
“Make no mistake, Jesse White and I would not be here today if we did not believe, in his heart, Paul Vallas is a lifelong Democrat committed to democratic values,” Durbin said.
“I believe Paul Vallas can lead Chicago forward and be a bridge to uniting the good people in this city.”
Durbin credited Vallas’ experience as Chicago’s budget director and CEO of Chicago Public Schools.
“He closed a projected $1.3 billion deficit. He balanced six consecutive budgets. He instituted the largest school construction plan in the nation’s history. He improved test scores and opened the nation’s first public high school military academy,” Durbin said. “He left the district with labor peace, no teachers’ strikes, fully-funded pensions, $1.2 billion in cash reserves.”
Vallas said the endorsements from Durbin, White and other prominent Democrats would “help dispel this myth that I’m not a lifelong Democrat.”
Vallas also spoke about his shared vision with Durbin to address crime and support public schools. Vallas said he would continue Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Invest South/West program to pump money into developments in the city’s underserved neighborhoods.