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Willie Wilson to give away $2 million more in gas, groceries


Millionaire mayor candidate Willie Wilson is hosting more high-priced giveaways.

He gave out $80,000 in groceries at four Chicago Cermak Fresh Markets on Wednesday and plans to give nearly $2 million in gas on July 9. The mayor hopeful has given away $3.2 million in gas and food since March.

“People need a break from all these high costs,” Wilson said.

By 2 p.m. Wednesday, the $80,000 supply of $25 grocery credits had run out, a Wilson spokesperson said.

The locations for Wilson’s planned gas giveaway can be found on his Facebook page. Drivers will be able to get a full tank of gas, he said when he announced the plan.

Spiking gas prices have made it hard for people to get to work and bring kids to day care, the mayoral hopeful said.

“People are suffering and a lot of people don’t have food to eat,” Wilson told the Tribune. He encouraged restaurants that throw away cooked food to find ways to donate it. The businessman and perennial candidate also called on wealthy Chicagoans and local businesses to find ways to support people with now heightened needs.

The giveaway will provide relief for some shoppers and motorists across Chicago, but critics have alleged that Wilson’s handouts to potential voters raise ethical questions.

Wilson, who estimates he’s given away $40 million in charity over his career, said “there’s no place for politicking” with his donations. He’s made them regularly in and outside Chicago and will continue to, he said.

“I think the critics should stop criticizing and get out here and do something,” he said.

He praised Gov. J.B. Pritzker for freezing Illinois’ gas tax. Pritzker signed a budget that included a six-month pause of a 2.4-cent inflationary increase in the gas tax. Wilson also called on Mayor Lori Lightfoot to suspend Chicago’s municipal gas tax.

The government needs to react to inflation like it reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wilson said during a news conference announcing the new giveaways.

“We can find the money when necessary to find it. But we should put people first,” he said.

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He declined to answer when asked by the Tribune if the gas and grocery giveaways reflect how he would govern as mayor, saying that he doesn’t want to mix his campaign and charity work.

Wilson criticized Lightfoot’s plan to give out $12.5 million in prepaid gas and public transit cards. Taxpayer money shouldn’t be used to support a limited number of people when high prices are affecting everyone, he said.

“She didn’t do nothing till I came up and did it,” he said.

Wilson plans to do more after next month’s gas giveaway, he said. He saw hundreds of people lining up for the grocery handout Wednesday morning, he added.

A video on Wilson’s Facebook page showed him bagging groceries, shaking hands and handing coupons to shoppers.

“There’s a need, there’s such a need out here,” he said.

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