A historic mayoral election in Chicago will culminate in a runoff between formal federal prosecutor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, all but ensuring that the city elects the first African-American woman mayor in the city’s history. Lightfoot and Preckwinkle reportedly led a record field of 14 candidates with 17.5 percent and 16 percent of the vote respectively. Prior to this year’s election, Chicago had seen just one woman, Jane Byrne, and one African-American, Harold Washington, serve as mayor.
Preckwinkle, a self-styled progressive, had her campaign harmed by a corruption scandal that saw longtime Alderman Edward Burke charged with extortion for allegedly holding up permits in order to solicit business for his law firm and a $10,000 campaign contribution that reportedly went to Preckwinkle. She has since said that she returned the check and vowed to donate campaign donations from Burke to charity. Preckwinkle also faced heat for allegedly lying about when she learned of sexual harassment allegations against her since fired chief of staff.
But according to Preckwinkle, her three terms serving as Cook County’s chief executive gave her the experience she needed to combat the difficult challenges facing the city. Corruption scandals aside, Chicago is facing problems with violent crime, a police force with a long history of misconduct and abuse of minorities, and a widening gap between its wealthy corporate downtown and poor African-American dominated neighborhoods that have been decimated by gang violence and decades of economic decline.
“It’s easy to call ourselves a world-class city,” Preckwinkle said in wake of the election results. “You can stick those words on a website, billboard or the side of a bus, but Chicago won’t actually be a world-class city until everyone who lives here has the opportunity to build safe, prosperous and productive lives for themselves and their children.”
Lightfoot, a first-time candidate who would also become the city’s first openly gay mayor if she were elected, has also positioned herself as a progressive. Her goal, she says, is to upend the city’s political establishment.
“As an LGBTQ+ person, I thought about running for mayor when no other LGBTQ+ person had ever made the ballot for mayor in this city,” Lightfoot told supporters. “And as a mayoral candidate, I traveled across the city and saw people who looked like me and families like mine who were struggling in every neighborhood. I’m not here despite these hardships, despite the odds. I’m here because my personal and professional experiences have prepared me to lead with compassion, integrity and persistence.
“I’m here because I know on a deeply personal level that we need change.”
Read the full story at The Chicago Tribune.