Chicago voters on Tuesday night issued a decisive but not entirely unexpected rebuke of its mayor as Lori Lightfoot failed to advance to a runoff election that will decide City Hall’s next leader.
When asked whether race and/or gender played a role in her defeat, Lightfoot didn’t mince words following a contentious campaign season with racial overtones that were impossible to miss.
Tuesday night’s election left candidates Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson as the last men standing from a field of eight hopefuls, including Lightfoot, Chicago’s first Black and openly gay mayor.
Vallas is white and Johnson is Black. Notably, both are men.
Those facts matter, at least to Lightfoot, who suggested Vallas was using a racist “dog whistle” while campaigning with the endorsement of the police union in a city with a notorious reputation for crime and violence.
“A recent Chicago Tribune story also found Vallas’ Twitter account had liked racist tweets and tweets that mocked Lightfoot’s appearance and referred to her as masculine,” the Associated Press reported.
That helps explain why Lightfoot agreed when asked after her concession speech Tuesday night whether her race played a role in her treatment during the campaign and the election’s outcome.
“I’m a Black woman in America,” Lightfoot told reporters. “Of course.”
Post-pandemic fearmongering about crime has become a popular political tactic typically embraced by conservative Republicans looking to oust incumbent Democrats. But since all of the candidates for mayor in Chicago are Democrats, this race took on a special significance by lending credence to the politics of fear that this time around were employed by liberals.
Vallas repeatedly promised he’d be “taking back our city,” loaded language Lightfoot criticized as racist.
“We will have a safe Chicago,” Vallas has said. “We will make Chicago the safest city in America.”
Lightfoot, a 60-year-old former federal prosecutor, rose to power in 2019 when she became Chicago’s third-ever Black mayor.
When Lightfoot was elected, supporters said she would bring the change Chicago needs while detractors predicted she would simply continue the not-so-flattering legacy of outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who remains under heavy scrutiny for his tumultuous terms in office.
Among the platforms she ran on were a $15 minimum wage and legalizing marijuana, two missions she accomplished. Lightfoot’s efforts on police reform fell short, however.
Lightfoot’s loss Tuesday night gives her the unfortunate distinction of becoming the first mayor of Chicago to not be reelected in more than 40 years.
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