Chicago will have a fresh new start with its new mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot, a political outsider who ran on a campaign of dramatic change at a time when its citizens have been clamoring for accountability. Lightfoot, who has never held elected office, won in a landslide victory over City Council member Toni Preckwinkle, earning nearly three-quarters of the vote. She will be inaugurated into office on May 20th, replacing two-term mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Both mayoral candidates are black women, which in itself marks a shift in politics as usual. “Not long ago two African American women vying for this position would have been unthinkable,” said Preckwinkle in her concession speech. “And while it may be true that we took two very different paths to get here, tonight is about the path forward.” Fifty-six-year-old Lightfoot, who will be the city’s first openly gay mayor, spoke of being a beacon for the next generation of Chicagoans. “Out there tonight a lot of little girls and boys are watching. They’re watching us, and they’re seeing the beginning of something, well, a little bit different,” said Lightfoot after her victory. “They’re seeing a city reborn.”
Lightfoot will have quite a bit of work to do to turn the city around. She vowed to do her part to repair public trust in the Chicago Police Department, suggesting that she will work to reopen the cases against members of the police department who were acquitted of covering up the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014, who was shot 16 times. “I’ve urged the U.S. Attorney’s Office, my former colleagues, to reopen their grand jury investigation and if they determine that there are no civil rights violations they can bring, they need to have a fulsome grand jury report,” Lightfoot told NPR. “We’ve got to have transparency and healing so that people are able to move on.”
She also hopes to address the income inequality and segregation that have become hallmarks of the city. “We can and will make Chicago a place where your ZIP code doesn’t determine your destiny,” she said in her acceptance speech, optimistically describing her win as proof that her city is a place “where it doesn’t matter what color you are.”
Lightfoot, who has a ten-year-old daughter with her wife, also acknowledged that her win as the first openly gay mayor of Chicago is paving the way for generations to come. “I want to make sure that I am the leader that respects the fact that kids all over the city and hopefully all over the country really understand that they can do anything that they want to do, that they set their minds to do, as long as they’ve got good, strong support from adults and love to support them,” she told CNN.