Two Black women, Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle, are set to make history in Chicago, regarding America’s third-largest city’s mayoral election. In Chicago’s 182-year history, a Black woman has never held the highest political position in the urban metropolis.
After Tuesday, that will no longer be a fact. Up until now, there has been one female mayor, Jane Byrne, and Black mayor, Harold Washington, who died while in office in 1987. The other 53 mayors have been white men including the Daley men who, for many years, had a political stronghold over the city.
It appears former federal prosecutor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle are among the growing number of Black women making moves in politics and this year’s mayoral race is ushering in a new era of change. The women have spent the final days of the campaign canvasing Chicago in hopes of turning out support before Tuesday’s election.
Lightfoot and Preckwinkle advanced to the runoff race after becoming the top leaders in February’s first-round of voting in which 14 candidates competed including Bill Daley, a well-funded candidate whose father and brother were former Chicago mayors.
Both mayoral candidates have built their campaigns on the same platforms- spreading the wealth from the gentrifiers to the city’s poorer natives and committing to eliminating violence in the city. But where Preckwinkle and Lightfoot differ could be what makes or breaks who wins the election.
Lightfoot, who also a lesbian and would be the city’s first openly LGBTQ mayor as well, was an early advocate of the consent decree and headed a police task force that concluded the department was plagued by racism and needed to make immediate changes in order to repair and rebuild relationships between the police and Black Chicagoans.
Preckwingle, who lives on the South side of the city, has been accused of still being inline with the “old guard” — meaning things won’t change if she is elected.
This is a momentous occasion for Black women in politics and what should have been a celebratory moment has been marred by the media focusing on the “mudslinging” by Lightfoot and Preckwinkle. In elections, people use tactics to give them the upper hand with voters. This isn’t a new practice by any stretch of the imagination. Simply examine “birther conspiracies” which was way more sinister and devious and it also propelled President Trump into office.
So the media’s positioning of the mayoral race being “overshadowed by the two candidates trading vicious barbs throughout the campaign” is not only offensive — it’s sexist. And the insinuation that Rev. Jesse Jackson, though he may mean well, needed to intervene to call a post-election “unity event” is equally insulting.
Candidates take shots in elections. It’s just what it is. Lightfoot and Preckwrinkle took out over a dozen other candidates before they faced off with one another- which was a historical moment in itself. This is how politics works and these ladies should be allowed to proceed as their predecessors.