CHICAGO, Ill. (WTVO) — Lori Lightfoot says her race and gender were at issue in her loss to remain Mayor of Chicago on Tuesday, becoming the first mayor to lose re-election in the city in 40 years.
Lightfoot, the first Black woman and first openly gay person to lead the city, won her first term in 2019 after promising to end decades of corruption and backroom dealing at City Hall.
But opponents blamed Lightfoot for an increase in crime that occurred in cities across the U.S. during the pandemic and criticized her as being a divisive, overly contentious leader.
She is the first elected Chicago mayor to lose a reelection bid since 1983, when Jane Byrne, the city’s first female mayor, lost her Democratic primary.
Speaking to supporters Tuesday night, Lightfoot called being Chicago’s mayor “the honor of a lifetime.”
When reporters asked if she believed she was treated unfairly during the campaign process, Lightfoot responded, saying, “I’m a Black woman in America. Of course.”
Lightfoot made similar comments in an interview with the New Yorker over the weekend, saying “I am a Black woman. Let’s not forget: certain folks, frankly, dont’ support us in leadership roles.”
Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson will meet in a runoff to be the next mayor of Chicago.
Vallas, a former schools CEO backed by the police union, and Johnson, a Cook County commissioner endorsed by the Chicago Teachers Union, advanced to the April 4 runoff after none of the nine candidates was able to secure over 50% of the vote on Tuesday to win outright.
“Regardless of tonight’s outcome, we fought the right fights and we put this city on a better path,” Lightfoot said.
Vallas served as an adviser to the Fraternal Order of Police during its negotiations with Lightfoot’s administration. He has called for adding hundreds of police officers to patrol the city, saying crime is out of control and morale among officers sunk to a new low during Lightfoot’s tenure.
Vallas’ opponents have criticized him as too conservative to lead the Democratic stronghold. Lightfoot blasted him for welcoming support from the police union’s controversial leader, who defended the Jan. 6 insurrectionists at the Capitol and equated Lightfoot’s vaccine mandate for city workers to the Holocaust.
Johnson received about $1 million from the Chicago Teachers Union for his campaign and had support from several other progressive organizations, including United Working Families. The former teacher and union organizer has argued that the answer to addressing crime is not more money for police but more investment in mental health care, education, jobs and affordable housing, and he was accused by rivals such as Lightfoot of wanting to defund the police.
Johnson has avoided the word “defund” during the race, and his campaign says he does not want to cut the number of police officers. But in a 2020 radio interview, Johnson said defunding is not just a slogan but “an actual real political goal,” and he sponsored a nonbinding resolution on the county board to redirect money from policing and jails to social services.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.