One of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s harshest critics in City Council is officially running for mayor.
Alderman Raymond Lopez, 15th Ward, announced his 2023 candidacy for mayor at a news conference Wednesday afternoon, outlining public safety as a cornerstone of his campaign as Chicago contends with a record number of shootings, homicides and carjackings.
“My number one goal is safety — we must prioritize safety in our city, or else nothing will happen,” Lopez said. “To do that, I will work to restore the greatest law enforcement department in the world. The men and women of the Chicago Police Department need our support, and I will give it to them like they have never seen before.”
Known as one of the council’s more conservative aldermen, Lopez represents the 15th Ward on the Southwest Side and has harshly criticized Lightfoot’s approach to crime reduction, among other issues.
Lopez said Wednesday that boosting morale and support for the Chicago Police Department will restore confidence among businesses and, in turn, spur economic development throughout Chicago. Though he was light on details, Lopez said officers need to be “rewarded” for their service and that he would fire Police Superintendent David Brown, who Lightfoot appointed, if elected.
“As mayor, Superintendent Brown will be the first to go,” he said.
Lopez has held his seat on the council since 2015. Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara has also said he would run for mayor. Businessman Willie Wilson, who ran in 2019 and 2015, is expected to announce Monday whether he will run or not.
Lightfoot has not formally announced her reelection campaign but is widely believed to be running again, and has been actively fundraising.
Lopez’s campaign account shows little activity in recent months. At the end of 2021, he had about $60,000 in the bank and since then, he’s gotten two donations over $500 — $1,500 from Comcast and $1,000 from Norfolk Southern Corporation. More detailed filings for the beginning of 2022 are due on April 18.
Lopez did not outline specifically how he plans to raise funds for a viable mayoral run, but said he’s confident he can do so.
“Every campaign knows that you have to raise money,” Lopez said. “I’m not diluting myself into thinking that this is just a pie in the sky campaign. But I believe that people will resonate with my message for Chicago … I’m sure that we’ll be able to raise the funds accordingly.”
Before his election in 2015, Lopez worked for Southwest Airlines and was active in politics on the Southwest Side. He became committeeman of the 15th Ward in 2012, after it was redistricted to include more Latino voters, with boundaries encompassing the neighborhoods of Brighton Park, Gage Park and Back of the Yards in addition to West Englewood.
In the City Council, he has worked closely with Ald. Ed Burke, 14th Ward, to stall and block the mayor’s legislation from time to time and has defended the once-powerful Burke, who is currently facing federal corruption charges.
Though friends and colleagues in City Council have dubbed him “Showpez” and even “Lil’ Burke,” Lopez has been one of the more active and engaged aldermen since he took office in 2015. A WBEZ analysis in 2019 found he had the best attendance rate of all 50 aldermen during his first term.
Northwest Side Alderman Nick Sposato, who considers himself a “close friend” of Lopez, said Wednesday said the two-term alderman “has a lot to lose” by running.
“If he had 12, 16 years under his belt, then maybe. But having eight years, if you lose, you lose everything,” Sposato said.
Sposato represents a ward that’s home to many city employees, including Chicago police officers, who could be a key voting bloc for Lopez. Sposato added it’s too early to say who he’ll support in the race for mayor, but highlighted the fact he’s a Lightfoot ally and one of her hand-picked committee chairs.
“I’m part of leadership for the mayor and she trusts me to be a part of it and right now I don’t see any reason to turn my back on her,” Sposato said. “As of right now I’m a supporter and defender of the mayor and it’s a tough job.”
Lopez alluded to potential endorsements to come from his City Council colleagues in the next week and that some have “expressed support, excitement” for his mayoral run.
Like the mayor, Lopez is openly gay. If elected, he would become the city’s first Latino mayor.
WBEZ’s Becky Vevea contributed.
Mariah Woelfel covers Chicago city government. You can follow her at @MariahWoelfel.