CHICAGO — Gracious words uttered by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday bookended her meteoric rise and reelection defeat.
“Obviously, we didn’t win the election today,” Lightfoot told supporters. “But I stand here with my head held high and heart full of gratitude. I will be rooting and praying for our next mayor to deliver for the people of the city for years to come.”
From relative obscurity, Lightfoot emerged in 2019, soundly defeating Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Lightfoot carried all 50 of the city’s wards to become the first African-American and openly gay woman to lead Chicago.
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“Four years ago, I looked into the camera and spoke directly to young people of color who looked like me and to every kid who felt like I did when I grew up,” Lightfoot said Wednesday.
As mayor, Lightfoot’s challenges came early and often, as she would lead the city through the worst of the coronavirus pandemic and the civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd.
But her demise came predominantly in the daily headlines from all corners of the city — crime, according to WGN political analyst Paul Lisnek.
“Bottom line is people are afraid to walk their dogs at night in an otherwise safe street. That burden fell onto the mayor,” Lisnek said.
Along with the crime rate, Lisnek believes Lightfoot was fighting a battle on several other fronts, as she sometimes sparred with City Council members. Lightfoot also clashed with the city’s teacher union.
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In the end, Lightfoot’s loss, just like her victory four years ago, made national news. The now lame-duck mayor joins the ranks of another one-term mayor.
“This is the first time in 40 years that Chicago has said no to an incumbent mayor. That’s a long time. It takes you back to the Jane Byrne days,” Lisnek said.
In her closing remarks on Election Night, Lightfoot made no apologies and said she is confident better days are ahead.
“I have always believed that when a door closes, another one opens,” Lightfoot said. “And so it will be for me and Amy and Viv.”