Even before a winner was named, Chicago’s mayoral runoff election was already historic: two black women were competing for a seat that had never before been held by someone of their race and gender. On Tuesday evening, former federal prosecutor Lori Lightfoot claimed a resounding victory.
By 8 p.m. local time, the AP had called the race for Lightfoot, who claimed a whopping 73 percent of the vote over her opponent, Cook County Board president Toni Preckwinkle, who received just 26 percent of votes. Not only will Lightfoot be Chicago’s first black female mayor, she will also be the first who is openly gay.
“Today, you did more than make history,” Lightfoot told her supporters at the Hilton Chicago, following her win. “You created a movement for change.”
When Lightfoot threw her hat into the crowded race to succeed Rahm Emanuel in May 2018, she was not expected to win. Although she pitched herself a progressive who wanted to increase public housing and create funding to address homelessness, she’d never previously held elected office. But this past February, Lightfoot and Preckwinkle came out on top of more than a dozen candidates vying to take Emanuel’s seat, advancing them both to a runoff election. As the Chicago Tribune put it, this “largely boiled down to change versus experience,” as Preckwinkle has decades of political work under her belt. But, in the end, it was Lightfoot’s fresh face that helped propel her to victory.
While some are celebrating Lightfoot’s win as a triumph for black women and the queer community, and many locals are enthusiastic about the end of Emanuel’s tenure, some city activists are skeptical of the mayor-elect’s record — especially when it comes to her friendly relationship with the Chicago Police Department. (Lightfoot headed the Police Accountability Task Force under Emanuel, and she came under fire for declaring the 2000 shooting of 17-year-old Robert Washington at the hands of a police officer justified.)
“Do Chicago a favor and save all excited posts and articles about our next mayor being Black lesbian,” tweeted Charlene Carruthers, a black queer community organizer. “You’re not helping. She loves and has worked to protect the very systems that suck resources and harm our communities.”
Others expressed similar concerns on Twitter.
The Chicago Teachers Union, which endorsed Preckwinkle, also published a stern letter in response to Lightfoot’s win, in which they listed their demands regarding everything from public school funding and staffing to minimum wage.
“We hope Mayor-elect Lightfoot separates herself from the dubious interests that funded her campaign, and governs like the progressive she claims to be by ending the funding of #NoCopAcademy and the Lincoln Yard TIF,” the letter reads, referring to the campaign to stop the construction of a $95 million dollar police academy, as well the controversial $6 billion Lincoln Yards megadevelopment. “We expect her to fight for an immediate $15/hr minimum wage in the city, for real and meaningful criminal justice reform, and for equitable investment in all of Chicago’s communities — especially those that have been habitually overlooked and underfunded.”
As mayor, Lightfoot says she hopes to invest in public schools, increase public safety, expand affordable housing, raise the minimum wage to $15, legalize cannabis, support the abolition of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and decommission the CPD’s “gang database.”