Chicago set to elect African-American woman as its mayor for first time

CHICAGO -- For the first time in Chicago's history, an African-American woman will become the city's mayor.

Political outsider Lori Lightfoot, who was a federal prosecutor in northern Illinois, and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle came out on top of the 14-candidate primary election, but neither received more than the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.

Although the totals are unofficial, Lightfoot walked away with more than 90,000 votes, making her the top contender. There are currently about 7,800 votes that separate her from challenger Toni Preckwinkle.

The Lightfoot and Preckwinkle matchup is epic. This is the first campaign for Lightfoot, and the former federal prosecutor has never held elected office. She's running as an "independent reform" candidate who isn't a part of the political machine.

"This election is about crumbling the machine of the past once for all, and demanding an independent accountable City Hall that serves the people, not the political machine,” Lightfoot said. "I didn’t aspire to climb the ranks of the Cook County Democratic Party to be the party boss. I’m not afraid of Ed Burke or Joe Berrios or anybody else who represents the old Chicago Way."

In recent years, Lightfoot served the city by leading the Police Accountability Task Force and the Chicago Police Board. She was also the only mayoral candidate who's openly a part of the LGBTQ community.

"I’m incredible honored and humbled that I was first LGBTQ + person to ever be on the ballot for mayor," Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot will go up against Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. The former educator and alderman was endorsed by the Chicago Teacher's Union, and says her government and management experience make her more prepared for the job.

"It’s not enough to stand at a podium and talk about what you would like to see happen. You have to come to the job with the compassion and capability to make your vision a reality,” Preckwinkle said.

Preckwinkle also met with constituents Tuesday morning, speaking with commuters at the 95th Street Station.

"I just want to express my appreciation to all the good people in Chicago who supported me," she said.

A potential complication to this experience is Preckwinkle's connections with incumbent politicians. She spent a good part of her campaign dodging questions about her ties to Alderman Ed Burke after a receiving a donation from the longtime alderman, who's now under federal investigation.

Still, the historic nature of this moment in Chicago politics is not lost on anyone. At a Black History Month event Tuesday, Governor Pritzker said, "history was made" in the runoff. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the results make, "a strong statement about the city, and both of them have a lot to offer the city."

"It’s the national trend. Women are stepping up," said Hermene Hartman, N’DIGO founder. "We’ve seen this all over the county. You’ve seen it in the south with black women, in particular."

The runoff election is set for April 2.

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