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Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot loses re-election in crushing defeat

By Ben Marquis
|
March 1, 2023

The city of Chicago, Illinois held municipal elections on Tuesday and incumbent Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot faced a wide field of challengers in her re-election bid.

That bid was, however, unsuccessful, as Lightfoot failed to garner enough votes to move into a run-off election on April 4, effectively ending her tenure in office, according to NBC News.

Mayor Lightfoot has now twice made history, initially as the first black woman and openly gay mayor elected in the city and now as being the first incumbent mayor to not win re-election in 40 years.

Lightfoot not moving on to run-off election

Local ABC affiliate WLS reported that Lightfoot finished third among the field of nine candidates in the race, and received around 17 percent of the vote.

That trailed the top two vote-getters, Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson, who garnered roughly 34 percent and 20 percent of the votes cast, respectively.

Vallas, 69, is the former head of the Chicago Public Schools system who ran as a moderate Democrat on a message of restoring law and order in the city notorious for its crime and was endorsed by the Chicago police union.

Johnson, a former teacher and union organizer who now serves as a Cook County commissioner, ran as a progressive Democrat and had the endorsement of the city's teachers union.

Mayor blames racism and sexism for loss

NBC News noted that Mayor Lightfoot conceded defeat Tuesday night in a post-election speech in downtown Chicago and said, "Obviously we didn't win the election today, but I stand here with my head held high."

She went on to say that it had been the "honor of a lifetime" to serve as Chicago's mayor and that "Regardless of tonight’s outcome, we fought the right fights and we put this city on a better path," according to the New York Post.

Her loss was not entirely grateful, however, as the Post noted that Lightfoot also plainly insinuated that racism and sexism were to blame for her loss. Asked by a reporter following her concession speech if she had been treated "unfairly" in her re-election bid, the mayor replied, "I’m a black woman in America. Of course."

Just prior to the election, Lightfoot told the New Yorker in an interview, "I am a black woman -- let’s not forget," and added, "Certain folks, frankly, don’t support us in leadership roles."

Crime rates soared during Lightfoot's tenure

However, while the now-outgoing Mayor Lightfoot suggested that racism and sexism were to blame for her loss, the Daily Mail reported that the real reason for her defeat was most likely the soaring crime rates in the city during her tenure as leader, as crime overall was up more than 50 percent over last year and more than 100 percent over 2021.

Yet, in her concession speech, the mayor claimed that she was "grateful that we worked together to remove a record number of guns off our streets, reduce homicides, and started making real progress on public safety."

The Daily Mail noted that Lightfoot's statement was partially correct, as murders and shooting incidents had declined slightly since last year. Yet, compared with four years ago when she was first elected, murders were up by around 59 percent.

Businesses fleeing city

In addition to the soaring crime, the mayor also oversaw a plummeting business occupancy rate for Chicago's famed Magnificent Mile, as numerous businesses fled the city and that stretch of commercial space now has a 30 percent vacancy rate.

Some of that was due to the pandemic shutdown orders and the George Floyd-related protests and riots in 2020, and was made worse by numerous instances of coordinated mass looting that occurred in 2021 and 2022, to say nothing of the soaring crime rates more generally, per the Daily Mail.

Chicagoans will vote once again on who their next mayor will be on April 4, but one thing is now clear – it won't be Lori Lightfoot.