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Chicago’s Next Mayor Will Be a Black Woman

Chicago's mayoral runoff election is scheduled for April 2, 2019. (Photo by Oscar Perry Abello)

Chicago will elect its first black woman mayor in city history this spring. The question is who.

That’s because Tuesday’s vote resulted in two frontrunners, Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle. Lightfoot won 17.48 percent of the vote and Preckwinkle had 15.96 percent, the two most of any of the record fourteen candidates that ran for mayor, but not enough to win the race, ABC 7 Chicago said.

Lightfoot, who is openly gay and has never held elected office, although she has held many positions in the public sector, including president of the Chicago Police Board and chief administrator of the Chicago Police Department Office of Professional Standards. She also worked as a federal prosecutor.

Preckwinkle is the Cook County Board president, and was considered a frontrunner, CNN said, until a January Chicago Tribune report linked her to Alderman Edward Burke, who was caught in attempted extortion, and later showed that her administration hired Burke’s son for a $100,000-a-year job that he was not qualified for.

Lightfoot spoke to her supporters at 9:15 p.m. Tuesday, ABC 7 said.

“People said that I had some good ideas, but that I couldn’t win, and it’s true that not every day a little black girl in a low-income family from a segregated steel town makes the runoff to be the next mayor of the third largest city in the country,” Lightfoot said.

At 10 p.m., Preckwinkle addressed her own supporters. “I know how gratifying it is when our efforts bend the arc of history a little closer to justice day by day,” Preckwinkle said. “While my opponent was taking multiple appointments in both the Daley and Emanuel administrations…I fought the power elites who have been trying to hold this city back for decades.”

Lightfoot has made police reform a cornerstone of her campaign. As chairwoman of a panel convened by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, she produced a report finding that the Chicago Police Department was “plagued by systemic racism,” as the New York Times reported in 2016.

“What we heard from people all across the city is they felt like they didn’t even have a claim to the geography in front of their house, on their street, or in their neighborhoods,” Ms. Lightfoot said when the report was released in spring 2016.

Preckwinkle has focused on education and a $15 minimum wage in her campaign, CNN said. In addition, the New York Times reported, she has said she wants to overhaul the juvenile justice system, stop closing neighborhood schools, and focus on environmental justice, especially for the thousands of Chicago homes that have lead in their drinking water.

Tuesday night, Lightfoot tweeted: “Congratulations to @ToniForChicago on making it to the runoff election. No matter which one of us wins, Chicago will make history on April 2nd by electing the first Black woman mayor. It’s long overdue.”

The runoff election is scheduled for April 2.

Rachel Kaufman is Next City's senior editor, responsible for our daily journalism. She was a longtime Next City freelance writer and editor before coming on staff full-time. She has covered transportation, sustainability, science and tech. Her writing has appeared in Inc., National Geographic News, Scientific American and other outlets.

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Tags: chicagomayorsrace