Another candidate has thrown in his hat in the race to challenge Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot, as State Representative Kam Buckner made his candidacy official Thursday.
Although 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 incorporate experiences like this into his campaign.
Buckner is the head of the Black Caucus in the Illinois House, but he knows he’ll need to expand his base outside his city’s legislative district.
‘I am a son of Chicago. I was born and raised here,” he said as he discussed his candidacy.
Buckner jumps into a field of some high-profile entries, as well as a few high-profile opt-out decisions.
Under the first category are Chicago Ald. Ray Lopez and businessman and philanthropist Dr. Willie Wilson.
Among the latter is former Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who was considered one of the more intriguing potential candidates before announcing he would not be seeking the office.
As for Lightfoot herself, she hasn’t officially announced a reelection bid yet, 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 first tour discussing his candidacy.
“If you’re talking to someone in Chicago, ask them if they feel safer,” he said. “Ask them if they feel there is a plan for our school system. If they are business owners, ask them if they are supported, and many of the answers will be no.”
Buckner has already talked about what will likely be a hot issue during the campaign, with two previous drink-driving convictions on his record. One took place in 2010, while the other took place while he was in office as a state representative in 2019.
“I’ve had conversations with people and I’ve been very clear about this from the moment it happened,” he said. “I live in the real world, and I know that people make mistakes and we slip, fall and trip. The important thing is whether we get up again.”
A former University of Illinois football player, Buckner worked for Senator Dick Durbin and also headed the World Sport Chicago office before being appointed to the General Assembly.
Recently, Buckner met with other candidates who are still undecided about running for mayor, including state representative LaShawn Ford, Ald. Rod Sawyer and activist and current congressional candidate Ja’Mal Green.
“I think people will decide where they want the city to go,” he said.
Another candidate who could still jump in the race is Paul Vallas, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, who told NBC 5 on Thursday that he will decide whether to enter the race after Memorial Day.