Lori Lightfoot to become Chicago's first LGBT, black woman mayor

Tue. April 2, 2019 10:33 PM by Brian Troutman

photo credit // rick majewski
Chicago, IL - Chicagoans have overwhelmingly elected Lori Lightfoot to lead the Windy City. Nearly three-fourths of the city's voters selected Lightfoot, and it appeared the mayor-elect won every Chicago ward with over 97 percent of the precincts counted. She will serve as not only the first black woman but also the first LGBTQ person to hold the title of Chicago mayor.

"We're seeing a city being reborn. A city where it doesn't matter what color you are, and it certainly doesn't matter how tall you are," the notably short-statured Lightfoot joked with her supporters packed into a crowded Chicago Hilton ballroom. "Where it doesn't matter who you love, just as long as you love with all your heart."

Lightfoot, 56, is married to her wife, Amy Eshleman. They have a 10-year-old daughter together. 

Supporters were ecstatic. "We were hoping for the best but preparing for the worst early on," supporter Dominique Leonardi told ChicagoPride, her wife by her side. "When she took it, we were so happy!" Leonardi said she never thought a lesbian would rise to become mayor.

Lightfoot started as an underdog in the crowded field of over a dozen candidates with varying degrees of political experience. After a last-minute surge in support, Lightfoot, a political outsider, beat out all her rivals in the February 26 election to face off against Toni Preckwinkle, 72, who served on the Chicago City Council for 19 years before becoming Cook County Board president and Democratic Party chair. Both candidates were black women, a first in the city's history.

The final weeks of the campaign turned ugly. Amid sagging poll numbers, the Preckwinkle campaign and allies unleashed a torrent of negativity. Congressman Bobby Rush, a staunch Preckwinkle ally, suggested more black people would be killed at the hands of the police in a Lightfoot administration while speaking at a campaign rally; and attack ads blanketed the airwaves attempting to tie Lightfoot to the botched emergency response to a deadly fire. Homophobic fliers targeting Lightfoot and her wife were also handed out to black churchgoers. Preckwinkle condemned the fliers and denied her campaign had any involvement.

Despite the vitriolic nature of the campaign, Preckwinkle conceded graciously at her election party. "This is clearly a historic night," she told disappointed attendees in Hyde Park. "Not long ago, two African-American women vying for this position would have been unthinkable."

Though black people make up nearly a third of the city's population, Chicago has only elected one black mayor in its over 180-year history. Mayor Harold Washington served from 1983 until his death in 1987. Similarly, only one woman, Jane Byrne, has ever served as Mayor of Chicago. All of the city's other elected mayors have been exclusively straight white men.

Lightfoot broke the combined color and gender barrier in her election to lead Chicago. Upon her inauguration, she will become the highest-ranking LGBTQ mayor in American history and the only black and openly-lesbian mayor in the nation.