Chicago elects Lightfoot first black woman mayor
CHICAGO – Attorney Lori Lightfoot defeated Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in Tuesday’s election, making her Chicago’s first African-American female mayor, according to unofficial returns.
Lightfoot jumped out to an early lead over Preckwinkle, a longtime political power broker, and had what appeared to be an insurmountable lead.
Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor making her first run for elected office, had 74 percent to Preckwinkle’s 26 percent, with nearly 80 percent of precincts reporting, according to unofficial vote totals.
The two candidates emerged from a record field of 14 candidates in the Feb. 26 first-round election for the chance to become Chicago’s 56th mayor.
Lightfoot becomes the third African-American to serve as mayor. Harold Washington was elected in 1983 as the city’s first black mayor and won re-election in 1987 before dying in office later that year. Eugene Sawyer, the city’s second black mayor, was appointed to serve out Washington’s term until a 1989 special election.
Lightfoot becomes just the second woman elected mayor, following Jane Byrne, who served one term from 1979 to 1983. She also is the first person elected Chicago mayor not born in the city since Anton Cermak took office in 1931. Chicago also becomes the largest U.S. city ever to elect an openly gay mayor.
Lightfoot, 56, and Preckwinkle, 72, repeatedly have acknowledged the historic nature of the campaign.
“I think about the children, and the city they will grow up in and what it will mean for young boys and girls to see leaders who look like them in the mayor’s office. You know what they say, ‘You cannot be what you cannot see,’” Preckwinkle, also the Cook County Democratic Party chair, said during a rally before hundreds of African-American voters at a rally last month. “I hope this election tells them that no dream is too big or challenge too great. And this is truly a historic moment. Not long ago, the idea that two African-American women would be vying for this spot would have been considered impossible.”
In a recent speech to a few hundred black voters at Rainbow/PUSH Coalition’s Kenwood headquarters, Lightfoot noted the amount of time since Chicago elected Washington.
“We have the opportunity to bring all parts of our city together, to forge a new direction for our city that welcomes everyone to the table,” she said.
The campaign has boiled down to change versus experience. Lightfoot has touted herself as a change agent at a time when City Hall is the focus of a federal public corruption investigation. Preckwinkle, meanwhile, has emphasized her nearly three decades of experience in government and her background as first a teacher then a Chicago alderman.
Chicago has 10 percent more registered voters now than it did in 2015 when Mayor Rahm Emanuel defeated challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, thanks to an uptick in voter interest ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.