Lori Lightfoot challenged old school machine politics
by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
Chicago elected its first African American woman and first out Lesbian mayor on April 2.
Lori Lightfoot campaigned against the old school machine politics that have dominated Chicago since the bad old days of Richard Daley, and won a resounding victory, trouncing her rival, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, by almost three to one.
'Today, you did more than make history,' Lightfoot told hundreds of supporters at her victory party. 'You created a movement for change.'
Lightfoot is a former federal prosecutor and first-time political candidate. The daughter of poor parents who worked multiple low-wage jobs in the segregated steel town of Massillon, Ohio, she graduated from the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago Law School.
'My parents didn't have much money, but they had their dignity and their dreams, dreams for their children, dreams for me,' Lightfoot said. 'They taught me the value of honesty, decency, hard work and education, and they gave me faith, the faith that put me where I am today.'
Lightfoot will become the third African-American and the second woman to serve as mayor. Harold Washington was elected in 1983 as the city's first black mayor and won re-election in 1987 but died in office later that year. Eugene Sawyer, the city's second black mayor, was appointed to serve out Washington's term until a 1989 special election.
Jane Byrne was elected to one term as mayor, from 1979 to 1983. Chicago is now the largest US city ever to elect an openly LGBT mayor.
'A lot of little girls and boys are out there watching us tonight, and they're seeing the beginning of something, well, a little bit different,' Lightfoot said.
'They're seeing a city reborn, a city where it doesn't matter what color you are, where it surely doesn't matter how tall you are and where it doesn't matter who you love, just as long as you love with all your heart&
'Together we can and will finally put the interests of our people, all of our people, ahead of the interests of a powerful few. Together we can and we will remake Chicago - thriving, prosperous, better, stronger, fairer for everyone.'
Lightfoot replaces Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, former Obama and Clinton staffer, who dropped out of the race for a third term as mayor last September. Emmanuel faced heavy criticism from Lightfoot and her community allies for not moving fast enough to reform Chicago's notoriously violent police department.
Her campaign caught fire, however, after FBI agents raided the City Hall and ward offices of the longest-serving alderman in Chicago's history, Edward Burke, on November 29. About a month later, federal authorities charged the 50-year incumbent with attempted extortion. Four of Lightfoot's rivals were tied to the alderman, giving new impetus to her calls for change.
Lightfoot's new administration will certainly face opposition from many of the old guard aldermen still left in office. She referred to them in a statement as she was leaving her polling place April 2.
'The machine was built to last,' she said. 'There are a lot of people who are very, very happy with the status quo, who have profited in every conceivable way, so they're not going to give up power easily.
'I've heard lots of rumblings of, 'We're going to teach her if she gets elected.' We'll see.'
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