Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is considering a bid to become mayor of Chicago in 2023, he told reporters this week.
Duncan made the remarks while laying out a plan to remake the city’s police department, which he called “in crisis” after years of violence in Chicago neighborhoods. Chicago suffered 836 homicides in 2021, the highest yearly total since the 1990s.
“All of us as citizens are just extraordinarily concerned about where we are as a city right now and want to get to a better place,” Duncan said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “It’s just way too serious … to stay silent.”
A strategist advising Duncan said the former secretary is still months away from a formal announcement.
“He’s definitely thinking about it, he’s talking to folks,” the adviser said. “He’s getting close to a decision.”
Duncan, 57, served as chief executive of Chicago Public Schools under Mayor Richard M. Daley before leaving in 2009 to serve in President Obama’s Cabinet.
If he goes through with a bid, he would challenge Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a Democrat who first won office in 2019. Lightfoot easily defeated Cook County Board of Supervisors President Toni Preckwinkle in a runoff that year, though her tenure has been marked by a series of crises, from the crime wave to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m not running for anything right now. But I am deeply concerned about where we are as a city,” Duncan told a reporter earlier this month. “Our city’s in a really tough spot. I’ve lived here all my life. I love this city. As I talk to folks, they’re probably more concerned now than at any time that I can remember.”
Lightfoot has been critical of Duncan’s calls for police reform, painting it as an effort to defund the police.
“He may be trying to dress it up in some other name, but that’s defunding,” she said of Duncan’s proposal, which would expand violence prevention efforts paid for by shrinking the size of the city’s police force.
Duncan has never held elected office. After leaving the Obama administration, he took a position as managing partner of the Emerson Collective, an education and media corporation founded by Laurene Powell Jobs. In 2018, Duncan published a book on school reform.