Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) is in danger of losing re-election this month amid a backlash over crime.
A new WBEZ/Chicago Sun-Times/Telemundo Chicago/NBC5 Poll found Lightfoot in a close three-way race in Chicago's non-partisan election.
If no candidate receives a majority on February 28, then the top two candidates proceed to an April runoff. Lightfoot won election in 2019 in a runoff.
The poll found Illinois Democratic Rep. Jesus "Chuy" Garcia leading the pack with 20 percent, followed by Paul Vallas, the former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, at 18 percent, and then Lightfoot, with 17 percent. Businessman Willie Wilson comes in fourth with 12 percent.
The poll has a four-point margin of error, so the top three candidates are in a dead heat.
But Lightfoot loses a hypothetical runoff against Vallas by 13 points. Against Garcia, she loses by 24 points. Garcia comes out ahead in a runoff with Vallas by 11 points.
Meanwhile, 71 percent said the city was on the wrong track. The elephant in the room is crime.
The poll found that most voters do not feel safe in the city and are more concerned, by 21 points, with reducing crime than reforming the justice system.
The murder rate in Chicago has soared since 2020, with 695 homicides recorded last year -- a decrease from 2021, when murders hit a 25-year peak of 802, but still very high.
Wilson and Vallas are seen as the most vocally anti-crime candidates. Vallas was the focus of candidates' attacks at a forum Wednesday.
"You can collect all the guns you want, but if you are not making arrests, you're not accomplishing anything," Vallas said.
Lightfoot has attacked Vallas by painting him as a Republican and highlighting an endorsement from the pro-Trump president of Chicago's police union, John Catanzara.
Given the political climate, such attacks may backfire on Lightfoot.
Wilson, a self-described independent who voted for Trump in 2016, has said police should be able to "hunt down" criminals who flee arrests "like rabbits." When Lightfoot condemned those comments, Wilson fired right back.
"So I think the mayor done lost her mind. I really do. I think she's out of touch," Wilson said. "You know, if she wasn't out of touch she would know she has to protect the people at all costs."