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Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson after Biden call with Democratic mayors: 'He is ready, willing, and able to take on and defeat Donald Trump'

Alice Yin, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Political News

CHICAGO — Mayor Brandon Johnson was unequivocal in his backing of President Joe Biden following the embattled incumbent’s latest move to defy internal party pressure to step down as the nominee.

Johnson released a long letter vigorously pledging his support for Biden after a Tuesday evening call between the president and 200 Democratic mayors.

With the Democratic National Convention coming to Chicago next month, Johnson reaffirmed his long-standing loyalty to Biden despite a debate against Donald Trump a few weeks ago that sparked a firestorm of alarm over the 81-year-old president’s mental fitness. The letter, addressed to Chicago constituents, was also the first time Johnson publicly acknowledged Biden’s lackluster showing.

“I know there has been a lot of chatter about the President’s performance in the debate, and the President himself has said he had a bad debate,” Johnson wrote. “Having spoken to the President just now, I can tell you he is ready, willing, and able to take on and defeat Donald Trump. He made it clear that he will be crisscrossing the country and campaigning relentlessly to defeat Donald Trump.”

The mayor described the president as “pretty fired up” during the evening phone call that lasted about 45 minutes, saying Biden made references to Democratic policy priorities specific to Chicago and other urban areas such as more education funding and gun control. Johnson himself stumped for the campaign at a June 29th event in Milwaukee, he reminded Chicagoans in his letter.

And, as has been the case each time Biden’s candidacy has been brought up, the mayor contrasted the Democratic incumbent to his GOP opponent and predecessor, who was and remains widely unpopular in deep-blue Chicago.

“To be blunt, Trump is a threat to everything we hold dear here in Chicago,” Johnson wrote. “It is critically important that we all spend the next several months doing everything we can to defeat Trump. That starts by ensuring we are fully united going into the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.”

The stalwart alliance reflects an ongoing strong relationship Johnson has maintained with the White House during his term, despite long-running disappointment over how the migrant humanitarian crisis has dried up Chicago taxpayer resources — by $400 million since 2022.

The mayor of the DNC host city has threaded that line closely, despite also breaking with Biden on the Israel-Gaza war by becoming the biggest city mayor to call for a ceasefire, as the 48-year-old understands he plays an important role in energizing younger, progressive voters while standing next to the octogenarian incumbent.

In contrast, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s embrace of Biden, while also unwavering, appears more cautious. On Tuesday Pritzker made his first public comments since joining other Democratic governors in a meeting with Biden at the White House last week and dismissed the notion that Biden is not capable of serving another four-year term.

But while at least one other high-profile Democratic governor has vowed not to run for president should Biden have a change of heart and drop out, Pritzker declined to take such a pledge.

Meanwhile, Illinois U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley is among small group of national Democrats to publicly call for Biden to step aside. Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin has also said the Biden-Trump debate “raised a lot of questions” about the president.

 

Sources close to Johnson say he has spoken one-on-one with Biden multiple times throughout his term, and has deliberated with Biden’s campaign and administration staffers. Biden has visited Chicago and the Midwest along with First Lady Jill Biden and other senior officials throughout the past year in a bid to tap into the promise of a “blue wall” carrying Democrats to victory in the Rust Belt states that were pivotal to Biden’s 2020 win over Trump.

Johnson’s calendars show he has attended Biden’s speeches and holiday party at the White House, and the mayor has also hosted senior adviser Tom Perez on tours of Chicago’s infrastructure and disinvested neighborhoods. Besides that, Johnson has also spoken with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas multiple times, including once with mayors Eric Adams, Mike Johnston and Karen Bass.

Sources say the topics Johnson and the White House discuss the most include more funding to support gun violence victims as well as the over 44,500 migrants who have come to Chicago in the last two years. They also confer on how to maintain Illinois’ status as a haven for abortion rights in the wake of the 2022 Supreme Court decision to strike down Roe V. Wade, signaling how important Illinois and Chicago will be during the DNC in communicating the vision of the freedoms the Democratic Party hopes to show it stands for.

As for Tuesday evening’s huddle, sources familiar with the call said Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, the Democratic Mayors Association president, kicked off the conversation by saying the party was excited to gather in Chicago for the DNC and shouted out Johnson as the host, but there were not many other references to Chicago.

Most of the call focused on Biden’s vision for his second term, and only a handful of the 200 mayors were picked to respond with questions or reactions, sources said.

According to the Biden-Harris campaign statement post-call, one strategy Biden called upon the mayors to help him with was talking up his infrastructure investments, including his bipartisan package that paved the way for what supporters said were much-needed improvements in deteriorating roads, bridges and other structures, but was decried by Republicans as driving up inflation.

“We’ve made thousands of calls. We’re putting up hundreds of signs all across America,” Biden noted, according to a partial transcript of the call released by the campaign.

On that front, Johnson’s administration seems to have already taken action.

As recently as last weekend, several large signs thanking the Biden administration for infrastructure investments that paid for improvements along Montrose Beach were staked across the lakefront. The Chicago Department of Transportation did not immediately provide comment on when those signs went up, why or how much they cost.

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©2024 Chicago Tribune. Visit at chicagotribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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