By MARC MELTZER
Chicago’s history-making mayoral race turned out to be a runaway, with attorney Lori Lightfoot winning more than 70 percent of the vote to become the city’s first Black woman to hold the office. The Associated Press declared Lightfoot the winner less than an hour after the polls closed.
Cook County Board President and long-time Hyde Park resident Toni Preckwinkle’s campaign to replace Mayor Rahm Emanuel was swept aside by the wave of reform-minded voters who apparently saw her as “more of the same.”
Preckwinkle put on a brave face to her supporters at her election party Tuesday night after her crushing defeat.
“The work we’ve done, the values we fought for, that doesn’t end tonight,” she told a sympathetic and enthusiastic crowd at the Promontory restaurant.
“Though it’s not the outcome I wanted I am not disheartened. For one thing this is clearly a historic night. Not long ago two African American women vying for this position would have been unthinkable. And while it’s true we took different paths to get here . . .I still believe in the power of public service. It’s what I’ve dedicated so much of life to . . . It’s why I’m going to continue to dedicate my life to it.
“I wake up every day including tomorrow just as I have for the last 25 years – fighting to advocate for and work for my constituents. That’s my motivation . . . I proudly will continue to serve as your Cook County Board president.”
One of those constituents in the crowd was Amina Jackson who said she was very much disappointed in the outcome. “Toni belongs in City Hall. She has the credentials to back it up.”
Throughout the five weeks following the Feb. 26 primary, each candidate had tried to convince voters that she had the right approach to guide the city. Both claimed to be progressives, and they shared similar positions on a number of issues, but the key difference was experience.
Lightfoot stressed her dedication to reform at a time when federal prosecutors are looking into corruption in the city. She argued repeatedly that it was time to move away from the machine politics that had dominated Chicago for decades.
Preckwinkle pushed her message that Chicago needed her 30 years of government experience rather than a neophyte who had never held elective office. were essential to guiding Chicago through this challenging period.
And the city’s voters resoundingly heeded Lightfoot’s call for reform and gave her an overwhelming mandate to pursue it.