Lightfoot and Preckwinkle advance to runoff in Chicago mayoral election, setting stage for first black woman mayor


(Sources: Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle

Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle will compete in a runoff for the Chicago mayoral election April 2.

Catherine Henderson, City Editor

Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle emerged from a crowded field of 14 candidates in the Chicago mayoral election Tuesday. For the next leg of the race, Lightfoot and Preckwinkle will compete in a runoff scheduled for April 2.

With over 90 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday night, Lightfoot received over 17 percent of the vote, and Preckwinkle received 16 percent. In third place, Bill Daley came in with 14.7 percent, followed by Willie Wilson in fourth place. No candidate reached a majority to win, so voters will choose between Lightfoot and Preckwinkle during the runoff in April. No matter who wins the runoff, Chicago will have its first black woman mayor.

After 9:00 p.m. with over 84 precincts reporting, Lightfoot took the stage at her watch party, declaring the start of the next stage of the race.

“I want to thank those who had the courage to stand with our campaign against the machine,” Lightfoot said. “To anyone out there eager to join our team and our fight, welcome aboard.”

The mayor is the most powerful elected official in the Chicago government, tasked with managing the budget, presiding over the City Council and appointing officials for Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Housing Authority and over 100 boards and commissions.

Current Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced he would not seek reelection in September 2018, shifting the field for Tuesday’s elections. Emanuel served two terms as mayor, dealing with upheaval in the Chicago Police Department following the murder of Laquan McDonald, as well as teachers strikes, a sex abuse scandal and pushback against school closures in the Chicago Public Schools system.

On Tuesday, Chicago residents had the chance to cast their vote for a new face of their city, but in a crowded field, candidates struggled to stand out. Voter turnout also suffered, at 34 percent as of 7 p.m. Tuesday. However, more voters registered than in past elections, possibly contributing to this percentage.

Still, Preckwinkle sent a hopeful message to her city when she address her audience.

“When it comes down to it, I’m doing this for my grandkids,” Preckwinkle said. “I want to make sure they have access to a great education, and real opportunities afterward, and they’re safe and happy; that they’re thinking about their futures and not worried about the present.”
In her campaign, Preckwinkle emphasized education, supporting an elected public school board and less reliance on charter schools. She has served as the Cook County board president for the past 9 years, and before, she was an alderman for Chicago’s 4th ward and a teacher.

Lightfoot’s campaign also focused on policing and education. As the chair of the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force and president of the Chicago Police Board, Lightfoot has been a vocal critic of the Chicago Police Department. If elected, Lightfoot would also be the city’s first lesbian mayor.

Medill senior and Chicago resident Andie Linker said she was excited to see progressive wins across aldermanic races and the mayoral election. She voted for Preckwinkle because she was worried about Daley winning, but she added she will vote for Lightfoot in the runoff.

“I think it just shows Chicago that the amount of money that you have and your connections to the machine aren’t going to get you very far if you aren’t a good person who cares about the community and cares about grassroots organizing,” Linker said. “I think it’s going to be a very exciting runoff election.”

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