Chicago Elects First Black Woman and Openly Gay Mayor

Lori Lightfoot has become the first African American woman and first openly gay person to lead Chicago, defeating City Council member Toni Preckwinkle — also a Black woman — in a runoff for the city’s mayoral election on April 3.

With 91 percent of the precincts in, Lightfoot was leading Preckwinkle with a wide margin — 73.7 percent to 26.3 percent — according to the Associated Press, which cited the Chicago Board of Elections’ website. AP called the race in favor of Lightfoot around 8 p.m. local time.

“In this election Toni and I were competitors, but our differences are nothing compared to what we can achieve together. Now that it's over I know that we will work together for the city that we both love," Lightfoot said. "Today you did more than make history, you created a movement for change."

Preckwinkle, who called Lightfoot to congratulate her, told supporters that "this may not be the outcome we wanted but while I may be disappointed, I'm not disheartened," CNN reported, adding that the runner-up will continue to “keep working on issues important” to her.

Lightfoot, 56, is a former federal prosecutor who has never been elected to public office. In February, she came in first among a pool of 14 candidates, while Preckwinkle, 72, won second place with 16.1 percent of the vote to Lightfoot’s 17.5 percent. Both women were bound to make history as Chicago’s first female African American mayor, in a city that is 33 percent Black, based on 2010 Census data. The two candidates defeated William “Bill” Daley, whose father and brother ran the city for almost 40 years. According to AP, Daley trailed both women with 14.8 percent of the vote at the time.

Lightfoot, a Democrat, told CNN on Wednesday that her most significant accomplishment will be to bring down the establishment. "This is something obviously that we've been talking about, the historic nature of the election, for some time, but I think the most historic thing was beating the old, entrenched Chicago machine and getting such a resounding mandate for change," she said.

Following the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald at the hands of a white police officer, Lightfoot pledged to reform the police department as part of her campaign. Mayor Rahm Emanuel — who chose not to run for a third term — commissioned her to lead a police task force. Soon afterward, she spearheaded a nine-member civilian board to oversee the Chicago Police Department.

Lightfoot has vowed to invest in the neighborhoods of Chicago’s West and South sides while restoring transparency to City Hall. She hopes to restore people’s trust in government and eradicate corruption at the local level, and protect immigrants from President Donald Trump’s draconian policies.

"We've got to do everything we can to speak to and protect our immigrant communities," she told CNN. "I also want to make sure that the city of Chicago gets its fair share of federal tax dollars, so we're going to stand strong and speak our values, and we're going to keep pushing back against hate, but I'm also going to make sure that we are treated fairly by the federal government."


About the Author

Robert Valencia is the breaking news editor for The North Star. His work as editor and reporter appeared on Newsweek, World Politics Review, Mic.com, Public Radio International and The Miami Herald, among other outlets. He’s a frequent commentator on foreign affairs and US politics on Al Jazeera English, CNN en Español, Univision, Telemundo, Voice of America, C-SPAN, Sirius XM and other media outlets across Latin America and the Caribbean.