Democrat Lori Lightfoot has made history as the first Black woman and the first openly gay person to be Chicago’s mayor. Lightfoot is only the second woman to lead the city.
Chicago will be the largest U.S. city that has a Black woman as mayor once Lightfoot is officially sworn in on May 20.
On Wednesday afternoon, former President Barack Obama said on Twitter:
Great to see Chicago’s historic mayoral race between two highly qualified candidates. Congrats to our next mayor, Lori Lightfoot—and Toni Preckwinkle campaigned hard and did us proud. I know that with our city’s heart and Lori’s leadership, Chicago’s best days are still ahead.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) April 3, 2019
Lightfoot has never before held public office. She is a former federal prosecutor. Lightfoot won against Cook County Board President and longtime City Council member Toni Preckwinkle for the spot as mayor.
In the election, Lightfoot won every single one of the Chicago’s 50 wards.
“Out there tonight a lot of little girls and boys are watching. They’re watching us, and they’re seeing the beginning of something, well, a little bit different,” Lightfoot told a crowd of supporters after her win. “They’re seeing a city reborn.”
Lightfoot’s platform includes promises to address the city’s infamous violence and corruption in politics. She quickly emerged as a favorite in the first round of voting when she launched her campaign on outrage after a white police officer shot and killed Laquan McDonald, a Black teenager. (The police officer was just convicted of murder, though he is likely to serve six years or less for the crime.)
Also for the first time in Chicago’s history, two Black women were vying for the spot of mayor. Toni Preckwinkle, a longtime politician, lost to Lightfoot.
“Not long ago two African American women vying for this position would have been unthinkable. And while it may be true that we took two very different paths to get here, tonight is about the path forward,” Preckwinkle told her supporters after the loss on Tuesday.
The path forward is growing as Lightfoot joins seven other Black women who are serving as mayors in large U.S. cities, including Atlanta and New Orleans. (There are dozens of Black women serving as mayors across the country.)
However, neither Lightfoot nor Preckwinkle had overwhelming support among Black communities in Chicago. Black people make up about a third of the city’s population.
Lightfoot will have her work cut out for her. Chicago has looming financial problems. The 2020 budget, which Lightfoot and staff will have just a few months to prepare, is expected to have a $250 million deficit. Chicago also has the worst-funded public pensions of any major city in the U.S and the annual payments to the retirement systems are expected to grow by a massive $1.2 billion by 2023.
Lightfoot will also be taking on a city very distrustful of law enforcement after a long history of excessive use of force and racism in the police department. A study found that police in Chicago are 14 times more likely to use force against Black men than against white men.