Two Black Women Candidates Head to Runoff in Chicago Mayoral Race

Lori Lightfoot, chair of the Chicago Police Board, addresses community leaders and members of the news media about the findings of the Police Accountability Task Force on April 13, 2016, in Chicago. The task force found the Chicago Police Department was plagued by systematic racism and had lost the trust of the community.
Photo: Scott Olson (Getty Images)

Chicago is poised to elect its first black woman mayor as two candidates, Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle, will square off in a run-off election in April after they took the top two spots in Tuesday’s race.

According to the Chicago Tribune, it’s only the second time the city has ever had a runoff campaign for mayor, which is triggered when no candidate receives more than 50 percent of votes cast.

In this Jan. 26, 2012 file photo, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle speaks at a news conference in Chicago.
Photo: M. Spencer Green (AP Photo)

Among a packed field of candidates, Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor who campaigned on a message to reform city hall, won 17.5 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results. Preckwinkle, the Cook County Board president and chairwoman of the county’s Democratic Party, came in with 16 percent.

Placing third—and eliminated from a run-off—was William Daley, part of Chicago’s Daley political dynasty. Easily the most recognizable name, both Daley’s brother and father served as mayor of Chicago. And as NPR reports, Daley outspent his competitors by millions of dollars during the campaign. Still, he was 7,600 votes shy of qualifying for the run-off.

Lightfoot or Preckwinkle would be only the third African American and the second woman to hold the office. If elected, Lightfoot would also be the city’s first openly gay mayor. As NPR notes, both will be charged with addressing deepening segregation in the city, as well as deeply ingrained issues with Chicago police, with Lightfoot specifically campaigning to reform the beleaguered department.


A first-time candidate, Lightfoot has served as chair of the police accountability task force, created by former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel to address Chicago PD’s longstanding issues with racism. In 2017, the Department of Justice found Chicago police had routinely violated civilians’ civil rights, pointing to the department’s record of racially discriminatory conduct and excessive force, among other things. Lightfoot also led the Chicago Police Board, a group of civilians who arbitrate police disciplinary cases.

While Preckwinkle, a former alderman, also spoke on the need for police reform, her campaign centered on reinvesting in public education. Among her proposals was a moratorium on charter school expansions and school closings; she was endorsed by the Chicago Teachers Union.


Update: Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, 5:45 p.m.: An earlier version of this post stated that Toni Preckwinkle was school board president. She is the Cook County Board President. We regret the error.

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Anne Branigin

Staff writer, The Root. Sometimes I blog slow, sometimes I blog quick. Do you have this in coconut?