Another candidate has thrown their hat in the ring in the race to challenge Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, as State Rep. Kam Buckner made his candidacy official on Thursday.
While he’s only been in the General Assembly for four years, Buckner played a key role in a recently-passed criminal justice reform bill, and he says he hopes to take those types of experiences into his campaign.
Buckner is the head of the Black Caucus in the Illinois House, but he knows he’ll have to expand his base beyond his legislative district in the city.
“I’m a son of Chicago. I was born and raised here,” he said while discussing his candidacy.
Buckner is jumping into a field that has featured some high-profile entries, as well as a few high-profile decisions not to run.
Among the former category are Chicago Ald. Ray Lopez and businessman and philanthropist Dr. Willie Wilson.
Among the latter are former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who was considered one of the more intriguing prospective candidates before announcing that he would not seek the office.
As for Lightfoot herself, she has not yet officially announced a reelection bid, but the Chicago Tribune reported this week that she plans to announce that candidacy on June 7.
As the field takes shape, Buckner prioritized safety and investment in education during his initial tour discussing his candidacy.
“If you talk to anybody in Chicago, ask them if they feel safer,” he said. “Ask them if they feel like there’s a plan for our school system. If they’re business owners, ask them if they’re being supported, and a lot of the answers will be no.”
Buckner has already discussed what will likely be a hot issue during the campaign, with two prior convictions for driving under the influence on his record. One occurred in 2010, while the other occurred while he was in office as a state representative in 2019.
“I’ve had conversations with folks, and I’ve been very clear about this from the moment it happened,” he said. “I live in the real world, and I know people make mistakes and we slip, we fall and we stumble. The important part is if we get back up.”
Buckner, a former University of Illinois football player, worked for Sen. Dick Durbin, and also led the World Sport Chicago office before being appointed to the General Assembly.
Recently, Buckner met with other candidates who are still mulling entry into the race for mayor, including State Rep. LaShawn Ford, Ald. Rod Sawyer and activist and current Congressional candidate Ja’Mal Green.
“I think the people will decide where they want the city to go,” he said.
Another candidate that could still jump into the race is former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, who told NBC 5 on Thursday that he will decide after Memorial Day whether he’ll enter into the race.