Lori Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor, was elected as Chicago’s first black female mayor last night, in an historic first. She will also become the city’s first openly gay mayor.
She won a commanding victory after a long and grueling campaign that saw her defeat more than a dozen challengers as she won her first elected office.
Lightfoot, 56, will become the leader of the nation’s third-largest city as it grapples with devastating gun violence, public corruption, attempts to reform the police force and an unprecedented exodus of black residents leaving the city.
Last night she won the runoff election, beating another black woman, Toni Preckwinkle, who is president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners. Lightfoot will succeed outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel who decided not to seek a third term.
The size of Lightfoot’s victory was somewhat surprising as she beat Preckwinkle 74 percent to 26 percent.
In her victory speech, Lightfoot said she was committed to ending the broken political culture of Chicago.
“We can and we will break this city’s endless cycle of corruption,” she said, raising her fist in the air. “And never again, never ever, allow politicians to profit from elected positions.”
Lightfoot thanked the city and those who blazed the trail for her victory, saying:
“We may be strangers but in this room, in this city we are all neighbors.”
“Now that it’s over I know that we will work together for the city that we both love. Today you did more than make history, you created a movement for change.”
The significance of the moment was not lost on the crowd at the Hilton hotel where Lightfoot’s election party took place.
“I did not think I would see this in my lifetime,” said Leslie Page-Piper, 60, who volunteered for the Lightfoot campaign. “And it happened just like that,” he said, snapping his fingers. “I’m overwhelmed.”
Lightfoot, had previously led Chicago’s civilian board handling police discipline cases and worked for the law firm Mayer Brown. She had been an underdog during the mayoral race and was a relative unknown as well as a newcomer to politics.