Chicago made two progressive leaps in last week’s mayoral election: Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot will be Chicago’s first black female, openly lesbian mayor. The Editorial Board congratulates Chicago on this forward-thinking move and expresses hope for Lightfoot’s coming term, which begins May 20.
In a time when the phrase “career politicians” has something of a bite, Lightfoot’s victory joins those of congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and President Donald Trump as bringing political outsiders into office.
Lightfoot is not inexperienced, having held public office in Chicago since 2015, according to her campaign website, but her opponent, Toni Preckwinkle, had far more political status. Preckwinkle has held some form of public office since 1991, most recently as Cook County Board President, according to her campaign website.
Most voters viewed both candidates favorably, yet Lightfoot was predicted to win by a 2-1 margin, according to a poll conducted by Stand for Children Illinois. The polls were proven correct when the election wrapped up: data shows Lightfoot with more than 73% of the vote, winning all 50 districts of Chicago, according to the Sun Times election results.
These numbers can be explained by her outsider status, but, in any case, her victory has not gone to her head.
Lightfoot said her win will make it easier to govern the voting public, but the political players in City Council may not respond in kind, according to an April 4 interview with the Chicago Tribune.
“Will it make it easier for dealing with a City Council that is still going to have people on it who have been around forever and just view the game from a very different perspective? That remains to be seen,” she said.
Lightfoot is also the first woman to lead Chicago since Jane Byrne’s term ended in 1983. It’s about time; 51.5% of the Chicago’s is female, according to 2018 Chicago census estimates. Now, the majority has significant representation.
Lightfoot’s victory arrives on the heels of the historic midterm elections in November when a record 36 women won seats in the House of Representatives. Most of the newly – elected women replaced men — just as Lightfoot will replace Mayor Rahm Emanuel, according to a Nov. 16 New York Times article.
Lightfoot is also the first openly gay mayor to lead Chicago. Four years after the nationwide legalization of gay marriage, the 73% of voters in the second-largest American city threw their support behind a lesbian politician.
Lightfoot ran on a platform calling crime Chicago’s No. 1 issue.
It’s a scary statistic to live near — an unthinkably terrifying one to live in.
“We cannot continue at the pace we’re continuing at. We know there are better solutions,” Lightfoot said. “We see it in other cities across the country, and we’re going to change this thing around, or we’re going to make changes.”
The Editorial Board wishes to express hope. We hope her overwhelming victory leads to overwhelming positive change, and she hears the voices of those she now represents. We hope her identity is not the only thing worth congratulating, and Lightfoot brings change to a city that needs it.