CHICAGO — After 14 mayoral candidates threw their hats into the ring for Chicago’s Feb. 26 election, Lori Lightfoot has been elected Chicago mayor. Voters made history Tuesday — the city elected its first black female mayor. Lightfoot also is the first openly gay person to lead the city.
Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board of Commissioners president and Cook County Democratic Party chair, fought a tough battle against Lightfoot. Preckwinkle had a lot of backing from organized labor, including the Chicago Teachers Union and Service Employees International Union Local 1. She was also endorsed by multiple officeholders in municipal, state and federal levels. She had been board president since 2010, and prior to that served five terms as 4th Ward alderman.
Lightfoot, former president of the Chicago Police Board, has held various roles in municipal government. Lightfoot was appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to head the police board in 2015, and to chair the Police Accountability Task Force in 2016 following the shooting of Laquan McDonald. Lightfoot also served as chief of staff for the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications in 2005. She’s been working as a partner at Mayer Brown LLP.
Chicago runoff election results:
“Thank you, Chicago,” Lightfoot said after her win. “From the bottom of my heart, thank you.”
In her post-election speech, Lightfoot emphasized how much she wants to work with Preckwinkle to solve the city’s biggest problems.
“Our differences are nothing compared to what we can achieve together,” Lightfoot said. “Now that it’s over, I know we will work together for the city that we both love.
“Today you did more than make history, you created a movement for change,” Lightfoot said.
“Together we can and will make Chicago a place where your zip code doesn’t determine your destiny. We can and will make all of our streets safe again. We can and we will give every single one of our children access to the high-quality education they deserve,” the newly-elected mayor said.
“We are in this together and we will grow together,” Lightfoot said. “We can and we will break this city’s endless cycle of corruption.”
Lightfoot, the first openly lesbian Chicago mayor, also came in 1st place in the Feb. 26 mayoral election.
“Fourteen candidates was a lot, obviously, and voters had a lot of options, but I want to thank the voters of this great city for fighting through the noise and coming to a place where we brought in the light,” she said after her 1st place win in February.
Lightfoot called mayoral candidates’ Gery Chico, Bill Daley, Susana Mendoza and Preckwinkle the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”
“The field was too crowded, there was no path for a new reformer without huge donors, being an elected official for ten thousand years amidst a pack of establishment figures. People said I that had some good ideas but that I couldn’t win,” Lightfoot said.
“And it’s true that not every day that a little girl from a low-income family in a segregated steel town makes the runoff to be the next major of the third-largest city in the country,” Lightfoot said.
Rob Fojtik, Lightfoot’s chief of staff, noted that Lightfoot and Preckwinkle were very different candidates.
“Now they’re going to have two candidates and quite honestly a very stark contrast, someone who’s been a machine boss for decades now — who maybe started her career as a progressive alderman but certainly has become the face of the machine — and Lori Lightfoot, who isn’t tainted by that and actually wants to promote an open and transparent government, and not just the clout interests,” Fojtik said.
Preckwinkle’s campaign team fought back against the remarks of her being “part of the machine,” and said that Preckwinkle has far more experience in governing and politics than Lightfoot.
Fojtik pointed to recent reporting on a construction company and campaign donor that hired Preckwinkle’s son and won millions in county contracts, as well as the county board chair’s relationship with indicted senior Ald. Ed Burke, whose son Preckwinkle hired to work for the county after he left a previous job amid a misconduct investigation.
“I mean, there’s lots of things here that are going to be a very clear contrast for Lori,” Fojtik said.
Lightfoot was endorsed by the Chicago Tribune and The Chicago Sun-Times. She was also endorsed by some of the mayoral candidates who ran against her in February, including Gery Chico, John Kozlar, Willie Wilson, Paul Vallas and Neal Sales-Griffin.
Preckwinkle was endorsed by some big names, including Chance the Rapper. Amara Enyia, who finished sixth in the Feb. 26 election, was hip-hop star’s first pick for mayor.
“I’m grateful for the support I received from Chance this morning,” Preckwinkle said during a debate on WTTW in March. “Not only is he a great artist but he is a person who has a long history of civic engagement. He’s a community activist.”
Unfortunately, her comments about Chance were criticized as “question-dodging,” and Lightfoot said Preckwinkle could often resemble “a robot.”
Despite the criticism, Preckwinkle said Chance was drawn to her “concern for educational equity and criminal justice reform,” among other major Chicago issues. Chance’s father, Ken Bennett, also endorsed Preckwinkle. Bennett has worked as an aide to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“While I was transforming our healthcare system, increasing access and improving the quality of care, my opponent was working for a law firm that defends tobacco companies and polluters,” Preckwinkle said during a mayoral forum hosted by ABC 7 Chicago in March.
Lightfoot said her opponent’s campaign tried to “demonize” and “destroy” her from the moment it launched. Veteran Chicago journalist Mark Konkol interviewed several African-American elected officials who echoed the same sentiment, and described Preckwinkle as “vindictive” and “mean.”
Despite these accusations, Preckwinkle’s supporters said she’s far more battle hardened in politics and governing than Lightfoot.
“President Preckwinkle says change is difficult, it’s not difficult if you have resolve and it’s not difficult if you’re not part of the broken corrupt political machine,” Lightfoot said during the ABC 7 forum.
“The idea that she would suggest that change is easy is just a manifestation of how little you understand of how government works,” Preckwinkle replied.
Preckwinkle was also endorsed by the local chapter of National Association of Social Workers, Planned Parenthood, Teamsters Local 700, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 881.
Jonah Meadows contributed to this report.
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