Public Safety Messaging: Lessons from the Chicago Mayor’s Race

Public Safety Messaging: Lessons from the Chicago Mayor’s Race

Session Type(s): Featured Panel, Streamed Session

Starts: Thursday, Jul. 13 1:00 PM (Central)

Ends: Thursday, Jul. 13 2:15 PM (Central)

Room: Salon A-1

Wondering how progressive Mayor Brandon Johnson pulled off an upset win in the Chicago Mayor’s race, despite being badly outspent facing a barrage of racially-loaded attacks on his public safety and policing policy positions? Join us as top strategists and stakeholders from the Johnson campaign discuss key decisions and important moments from the race, and lay out what progressives and all Democrats can learn with respect to how whole communicate about public safety issues in other races moving forward.


Bill Neidhardt

Bill Neidhardt

Bill Neidhardt is a progressive campaign strategy, communications, and mail consultant. He founded Left Flank Strategies with fellow Bernie presidential campaign alums to support successful campaigns including Brandon Johnson for Mayor and Becca Balint for Congress. In the past, he has worked on Capitol Hill, on Tammy Baldwin 2018, and multiple other campaigns.

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Stacy Davis Gates


Stacy Davis Gates is President of the Chicago Teachers Union, Executive Vice President of the Illinois Federation of Teachers and Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers.

Before her election to the Office of President in 2022, Mrs. Davis Gates served four (4) years as Vice President of the Union. Prior to that, she served as the Union’s Political and Legislative Director. In the fall of 2019, she helped lead a 15-day strike and negotiate a historic contract that provides for smaller class sizes, ensures a nurse and social worker in every Chicago public school, secures sanctuary protections for immigrant families, and supports students and families experiencing homelessness.
While at the CTU, Mrs. Davis Gates has been the architect of bold political and legislative campaigns for the schools and city that all Chicagoans deserve. She has raised millions of dollars to elect classroom teachers to all levels of local government, and challenge school privatizers and union busters. Mrs. Davis Gates has also spearheaded statewide legislative campaigns to pass the strongest charter school accountability measures in the country, push for the restoration of the bargaining rights of Chicago Public Schools employees and fully fund public education by ending tax loopholes for the one (1) percent.
In 2017, Mrs. Davis Gates was elected as Chair of United Working Families, an independent political organization by and for working class people and movements. She also serves as a board member for the Action Center on Race & the Economy (ACRE), a nexus for organizations working at the intersection of the struggle for racial justice and Wall Street accountability.
Mrs. Davis Gates is currently on leave from the classroom, where she taught high school social studies for over a decade at Englewood, Clemente and Mason Community Links High Schools. She attended Saint Mary’s College, the University of Notre Dame and Concordia University. Mrs. Davis Gates lives on the South Side of Chicago with her husband and three children.

Other sessions: Winning on Public Safety: How Progressives Can Combat GOP Narratives on Crime, We Got NOW! The Black Women Bench

Brandon Davis


Brandon L. Davis is a leading progressive strategist who brings 20 years of broad experience in strategic planning, organizational development, political advocacy, organizing, and campaign management to his role as managing partner at multimedia agency Technicolor Political.

Most recently, Brandon was the senior strategist for paid media and ad maker on Brandon Johnson’s successful mayoral race in Chicago. In the 2022 cycle, Brandon made ads for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (MI) successful re-election, as well as ad-making for BlackPAC, DCCC, and House Majority PAC.

Prior to founding Technicolor, Davis managed Andrew Gillum’s 2018 campaign for Florida Governor, and served as the Chief of Staff at the Democratic National Committee, overseeing the party’s day-to-day operations during the 2016 general election. Davis also spent nearly a decade in senior leadership positions at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), including as National Political Director from 2011-2016.

Over the past two decades, Davis has served progressive causes in a variety of arenas, serving on the boards of America Votes, the Black and Latino Civic Engagement Funds (Democracy Alliance), Priorities USA, and State Voices.

Brandon lives in Chicago and loves to spend his downtime with his wife Brandi, and their daughter Isabella.

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Karthik Ganapathy


Karthik is an experienced communicator with deep roots in the progressive movement. After serving as a top spokesman on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, he has worked with leading elected officials including Rep. Keith Ellison, political candidates like Charles Booker, and advocacy groups like the ACLU, Sunrise Movement, and to build a just economy and society for all. In 2023, he played a key role on the successful campaign of Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, including leading debate preparation and speech writing.

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