Black, gay woman elected Chicago Mayor in historic vote

Chicago: Voters in Chicago — the third-largest city in the US — have chosen an openly gay African-American woman to be their next Mayor in a historic election that has upended the city’s long-reigning political machine.

Lori Lightfoot of the Democratic Party, a relative outsider who ran a campaign vowing to dismantle Chicago’s notorious Democratic establishment, garnered 73.7 per cent of the ballots on Tuesday, easily defeating her rival, the head of the Cook County Board, Toni Preckwinkle, also an African-American woman.

“Today, you did more than make history,” Lightfoot told her supporters at the election night party after results started to stream in. “You created a movement for change.”

“A lot of little boys and girls are out there watching us tonight, and they’re seeing the beginning of something, well, a little bit different,” she was quoted as saying by Efe news.

“They’re seeing a city reborn, a city where it doesn’t matter what colour 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.”

Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor and President of the Chicago Police Board, had launched her campaign last May with a promise of changing the way politics worked in the Windy City, where the Democratic Party has had a complete monopoly on power since the last Republican Mayor William Hale Thompson lost his re-election bid in 1931.

Lightfoot, 56, grew up in Ohio and went to college at the University of Michigan. Then after two years as a legislative aide in Washington she went to law school at the University of Chicago. She has lived in the city for all but one year since 1986.

She describes herself as “an out and proud black lesbian”. When she is sworn in, she will be the first Mayor in the Windy City who identifies as a lesbian. She and her spouse, Amy Eshleman, have a 10-year-old daughter.

Lightfoot’s rival Preckwinkle said: “This may not be the outcome we wanted, but while I may be disappointed, I’m not disheartened.

“For one thing, this is clearly a historic night. Not long ago, two African-American women vying for this position would have been unthinkable. And while it may be true we took different paths to get here, tonight is about the path forward.”

Lightfoot is now set to tackle the many issues afflicting Chicago, including high crime rates, police brutality, epidemic gang violence, corruption, a large financial deficit and a lack of resources devoted to public education.

In 2018, Chicago recorded 531 homicides, more than New York City and Los Angeles combined, though this figure represented a 20-percent drop compared to the previous year.