A first for Chicago
By Frederick H. Lowe
Lori Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor and a police reformer who is openly lesbian, topped the crowded primary field of 14 candidates to win yesterday’s Chicago mayoral primary, though she did not capture enough votes to avoid a runoff election.
Lightfoot, 56, will face Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who is also a black woman, in the April 2 runoff election to become the first black woman elected Chicago’s mayor. Preckwinkle, 71, has been president of the Cook County Board since 2010.
If Lightfoot wins the mayor’s race, history will be made because black women will hold the top three elected positions in Chicago and Cook County. If Preckwinkle loses the mayor’s race to Lightfoot, she would remain as Cook County Board President. The third African-American woman in office is Kim Foxx, Cook County State’s Attorney.
Across the state, blacks hold three top elected positions. Jesse White is Secretary of State; Kwame Raoul is the state’s Attorney General, and Juliana Stratton is Illinois Lieutenant Governor.
Lightfoot’s primary win was greeted much more differently than that of Harold Washington, who was first elected Chicago mayor in April 1983. Some whites predicted the city was doomed because a black man was running the city while African Americans celebrated Washington’s election.
Lightfoot and Preckwinkle and will face off in April because neither received more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff in an election which had record low voter turnout of 27 percent. Lightfoot received 17 percent of the vote to Preckwinkle’s 16 percent.
Either woman will succeed Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel who decided not to run for a third term in the wake of the Laquan McDonald police scandal in which Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke murdered McDonald by shooting him 16 times.
Van Dyke is now in prison and Attorney General Raoul is seeking a longer sentence for him.
Both Lightfoot and Preckwinkle had been openly critical of the Emanuel administration’s handling of McDonald murder.
“What do you think of us now?” Lightfoot said Tuesday night to joyful supporters. “This is what change looks like.”
Lightfoot and Preckwinkle defeated some well-known names in the primary, including William Daley, son of Richard J. Daley and brother of Richard M. Daley, both Chicago mayors.
William Daley served as White House Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama and he raised the most money of all the candidates but conceded early. The Chicago Tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business endorsed Daley for mayor.
The Chicago Sun-Times endorsed Lightfoot. Lightfoot, a lawyer, was President of the Chicago Police Board from 2015-2018. She also was a partner with the law firm of Mayer Brown. Lightfoot is a graduate of the University of Michigan and The University of Chicago Law School. Preckwinkle also is graduate of the University of Chicago.