Chicago is set to see its first black female mayor after a historic election on Tuesday prompted a runoff between Democrats Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle, both self-styled progressives who emerged as the top candidates in a crowded field that included Bill Daley, a longtime politico with an infamous last name.
The closely watched and competitive race, which even brought about a board game (pdf), kicked off last year in the deeply Democratic city after former Mayor Rahm Emanuel—widely loathed as a "neoliberal nightmare" whose "tenure in office wreaked on Chicago's communities of color"—announced he would not seek another term.
As of late Wednesday morning, the unofficial results reported by the Chicago Tribune showed Lightfoot with 17.5 percent of the overall votes and Preckwinkle with 16 percent. Daley, who has conceded, ranked third among the 14 candidates. As no one received more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff between Lightfoot and Preckwinkle is scheduled for April 2.
Endorsed by the Chicago Sun-Times, the Illinois Education Association, Democracy for America, and Indivisible Illinois 9th District Andersonville-Edgewater, Lightfoot is a former federal prosecutor who would also be the second city's first openly gay mayor.
We congraulate Lori Lightfoot for advancing to the April 2 run-off election and her historic candidacy as the first-ever openly queer person to run for mayor of Chicago. This is a significant milestone in Chicago and Illinois history. Representation matters! pic.twitter.com/2q6Tvm3Atw
— Equality Illinois (@EqualityILL) February 27, 2019
Although Lightfoot has never held elected office, the 56-year-old has garnered national attention after Emanuel appointed her to lead a task force to propose reforms to the Chicago Police Department—which is notorious for racist policing that has included entrapping and killing low-income black residents.
As I said last night—many said this day could never happen. That the field was too crowded. That there was no path for a new reformer amidst establishment candidates. We're proving them wrong! @MarkBrownCST charts our "amazing turnaround" in today's @SunTimes. Check it out https://t.co/W3ZBZ2Hw1g
— Lori Lightfoot (@LightfootForChi) February 27, 2019
Preckwinkle's backers include the Chicago Teachers Union and various other local labor groups, former Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). As current chair of the Cook County Democratic Party and an ex-alderman, the 71-year-old former teacher has long been a fixture in local politics.
— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) February 27, 2019
— NBC Chicago (@nbcchicago) February 27, 2019
The results on Tuesday were met with excitement from progressives in Chicago and across the country:
— NAACP (@NAACP) February 27, 2019
Feeling real proud of #Chicago this morning knowing that one of two Black women, @LightfootForChi or @ToniForChicago, will be the next #ChicagoMayor, leading the country's 3rd largest city. Long overdue. #ChicagoMayoralElection
— Anna Galland (@annagalland) February 27, 2019
— Sherrod Brown (@SherrodBrown) February 27, 2019
No matter what happens next, Chicago, the third largest city in the United States, will elect its first Black woman mayor and may elect a Black queer woman to lead the city. Hell of a way to finish Black History Month.#LoriLightfoot #ToniPreckwinkle
— Charlotte Clymer (@cmclymer) February 27, 2019
While both candidates have face skepticism centered on whether they are the best progressive candidate, Tuesday's election results clearly indicate that Chicago voters are hungry for a mayor who better represents and is more willing to serve the city's wildly impoverished communities.
As Saqib Bhatti wrote for In These Times last September, after Emanuel announced his exit from the city's top spot:
The next mayor needs to flip the script. They need to aggressively raise revenue from the wealthy parts of the city in order to repair the damage to the South and West Sides. For decades, Black and Brown Chicago have been forced to shoulder the costs of [former Mayor Richard] Daley and Emanuel's burning desire to revitalize White Chicago. The next mayor will have to target Black and Latinx communities for investment coming from progressive revenues sources that make rich residents in White Chicago and the major corporations downtown pay their fair share. These wealthy interests have benefited for nearly 30 years from policies that have prioritized the needs of corporations over those of poor communities of color. Chicago's next mayor needs to make White Chicago pay reparations to Black and Brown Chicago to start to reverse these inequities and right these wrongs.
The news out of Chicago comes as part of a slate of progressive victories in local races across the country on Tuesday, which included the election of Jumaane Williams as New York City's next public advocate.