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Lori Lightfoot Advances to Runoff in Chicago Mayoral Race

Lori Lightfoot

Lightfoot, a lesbian, is the first out candidate for Chicago mayor.


Lori Lightfoot, a progressive black lesbian, will be advancing to a runoff in the race for Chicago mayor.

With 85 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday night, Lightfoot was leading the field of 14 candidates with 17 percent of the vote. Toni Preckwinkle, the current Cook County Board president, who is also an African-American woman, was second with 16 percent. Bill Daley, who worked in the Obama and Clinton administrations and is the brother and son of Chicago mayors, was third with 15 percent and has now conceded. Only the top two candidates go to the runoff, which will be held April 2 and means Chicago will have its first African-American woman mayor. The city is heavily Democratic, but municipal elections are officially nonpartisan.

Lightfoot, the first out LGBTQ candidate to run for Chicago mayor, is a lawyer and longtime community activist. She has been a federal prosecutor and has held several positions in city government, including chief of staff and general counsel of the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications. In 2015, Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed her as president of the Chicago Police Board and then chair of the Police Accountability Task Force.

Emanuel, who has served two terms as mayor, is not seeking reelection this year, leading to the plethora of candidates vying to succeed him. Lightfoot and other progressives have had their differences with Emanuel, but in an interview with The Advocate earlier this month, she confined her criticism to saying, "The economic development strategy of the past 10 years has focused almost exclusively on the downtown area to the detriment of the neighborhoods." She's also a big supporter of gun control, neighborhood schools, affordable housing, and, of course, LGBTQ rights.

Preckwinkle has taken similar positions, but she is considered a more establishment candidate than Lightfoot. But Preckwinkle has criticized Lightfoot for her ties to establishment politicians like Emanuel and the previous mayor, Richard M. Daley.

Lightfoot had also told The Advocate that her race, gender, and sexual orientation had not become issues in the mayoral contest.

"I hope my presence in this race serves as an important reminder of the progress we've made in equality and inclusion," she said.

A victory by Lightfoot in April would make Chicago the largest U.S. city ever to have a mayor from the LGBTQ community. That distinction is currently held by Houston, where Annise Parker, a lesbian, was mayor for six years. Parker is now CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which has endorsed Lightfoot. With Lightfoot advancing to the runoff, Victory Fund has upgraded her endorsement to "Spotlight" status, giving her access to additional resources.

Speaking to her supporters Tuesday night, Lightfoot acknowledged her backing from Victory Fund and state LGBTQ rights group Equality Illinois, Windy City Times reports. Joined onstage by her wife, Amy Eshelman, and their daughter, she also noted the historic nature of her candidacy.

"As an LGBTQ-plus person, I thought about running for mayor when no other LGBTQ-plus person had ever made the ballot," she said, according to WCT.

"This election is about whether we are resigned to the status quo or resolved to fight for what's right," she added. "This election is about leaving the crumbling machine in the past, once and for all, and demanding an independent, accountable City Hall that serves the people. It's time to bring it home."

Victory Fund's Parker released this statement on Lightfoot's accomplishment: "Despite not having a legacy last name or a rolodex of rich friends, Lori's fighting spirit and ability to transcend the murky machinations of Chicago politics has made the unlikely a reality - and Chicagoans will be better for it. While Lori is determined to improve the lives of all the city's residents - whether downtown or on the South Side - the historic nature of her candidacy provides Chicagoans the rare opportunity to bring fresh perspectives and experiences to city hall. With a victory in April, Lori will become the first Black woman to serve as Chicago's mayor and will supplant me as the highest-ranking openly LGBTQ mayor in U.S. history. I am ready and excited for Lori to take on that title."

Chicago also elected its first black lesbian City Council member Tuesday. Maria Hadden beat inclumbent Joe Moore in the city's 49th Ward, winning about 61 percent of the vote, Windy City Times reports. Tom Tunney of the 44th Ward, the city's first openly gay alderman, won reelection, while another gay council member, the 46th Ward's James Cappleman, appeared to be headed for a runoff with Marianne Lalonde, one of several challengers.

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