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Lori Lightfoot was elected Chicago's next mayor on Tuesday. (Photo: Chicago Sun-Times/screenshot)

With Lori Lightfoot's 'Historic, Hopeful Victory' in Chicago Mayoral Race, Progressives Vow to Hold Her Accountable

"Chicago elected a new mayor out of a desire for bold and progressive ideas, and a commitment to building a more fair, just, and equitable city."

Jessica Corbett

As Chicago's mayoral runoff election on Tuesday ended with a "historic, hopeful victory" for Lori Lightfoot, residents and community organizers vowed to hold the former federal prosecutor to her promises to usher in "a new progressive vision for the city."

"Mayor-elect Lightfoot's commitment to change will be quickly tested."
—Abbie Illenberger, Grassroots Illinois Action

After securing more than 73 percent of the vote—per the latest tally reported by the Chicago Tribune—Lightfoot will be the second city's first black female and openly gay mayor.

The faceoff between Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, both black women and self-styled progressives, garnered national attention for its historic nature.

NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson, and many others across the country, took to Twitter to congratulate Lightfoot for her "groundbreaking win."

While recognizing the significance of Lightfoot stepping into a role currently held by "neoliberal nightmare" Rahm Emanuel, many local progressives continued to raise concerns about Lightfoot's record and promised to hold her feet to the fire.

"I'm excited to say we are going to have our first black female mayor in the city of Chicago," Christopher Cook of 100 Black Men, a group that mentors the city's black youth, told In These Times last week. "But when that's all said and done, what changes are they going to make? We can't really predict right now, but we can hold them accountable."

Key priorities for progressives include pushing Lightfoot to address Chicago's infamously discriminatory policing, beleaguered public education system, growing pension debt, tax policies that prioritize corporations over low-income residents, and underserved South and West Sides.

"Chicago elected a new mayor out of a desire for bold and progressive ideas, and a commitment to building a more fair, just, and equitable city," the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and SEIU Local 73 said in a joint statement. "Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot has her work cut out for her on day one."

"We hope Mayor-elect Lightfoot separates herself from the dubious interests that funded her campaign, and governs like the progressive she claims to be," the unions added while laying out some clear demands for the incoming mayor:

Mayor-elect Lightfoot's leadership must stop the hemorrhage of black families from our city, prioritize affordable housing and rent control, secure a Community Benefits Agreement for the Obama Center, make the wealthy pay their fair share, and stabilize and fund public services.

While urging Lightfoot to appoint "stakeholders" from local communities to the Chicago Board of Education, the unions also offered a broader agenda for public schools:

School communities need justice and equity; an elected, representative school board; fully resourced school communities; black, Latinx and veteran teachers in classrooms; and full restoration of our collective bargaining rights.

"Will she embrace Emanuel's public safety policy of criminalizing communities of color, or change course to prioritize neighborhood investment, mental health services, and jobs?" asked Abbie Illenberger, deputy director of the political group Grassroots Illinois Action.

"Will she fulfill her campaign promise to end rip-off development deals like the Lincoln Yards TIF?" Illenberger added. "Mayor-elect Lightfoot's commitment to change will be quickly tested."

Others were more immediately critical. In a series of tweets, Charlene Carruthers, a Chicago-based black, queer feminist community organizer and writer, expressed frustration with the excitement over Lightfoot's win, arguing that "we are going to have to fight the Lori Lightfoot administration tooth and nail."

Carruthers also highlighted the #StopLightfoot campaign, launched by "a group of young black, brown, native, white queer, trans, and gender-nonconforming organizers and people who love Chicago, and have worked for years on issues of police violence, immigrant justice, LGBTQ liberation, and more."

Supporters of the #StopLightfoot campaign included the Chicago chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), which saw a series of wins in aldermanic races on Tuesday.

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