CHICAGO – Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot lost her bid for re-election on Tuesday, ending her historic run as the city’s first Black woman and the first openly gay person to serve in the position.
The Democratic incumbent failed to get enough votes in the nine-person race to advance to the April 4 runoff election, according to projections from The Associated Press.
Paul Vallas, a former Chicago schools CEO, will face Brandon Johnson, a Cook County commissioner endorsed by the Chicago Teachers Union.
Ideally, the choice between Vallas and Johnson is stark. Vallas was a moderate law and order candidate, while Johnson ran on a relentlessly progressive agenda.
But Chicagoans sent a message saying they wanted change, rejecting the current mayor and congress. Lightfoot is the first elected mayor of Chicago to lose re-election since 1983.
The mayor conceded victory Tuesday night at her party in downtown Chicago, saying, “Obviously we didn’t win the election today, but I stand here with my head held high.”
Lightfoot is concerned about ongoing crime in the city, which has been a major concern among Chicagoans. Crime increased during her term, although the mayor repeatedly stated that it fell year over year in 2022.
Vallas was widely expected to emerge from the first round of voting, having built his campaign around a tough theme on crime and gaining support in the vote-heavy north and north-west of the city. He also received support from the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police.
“We will make Chicago safe. We will make Chicago the safest city in America,” he said after his victory Tuesday night.
It’s a bitter end to the tumultuous tenure of Lightfoot, who quickly developed an image as a national lightning rod for conservatives and repeatedly clashed with institutional interests, from the Chicago Teachers Union to the media to the rank of police and poet. . She was sometimes praised for the discussion she handled with the pandemic but she saw violent riots after the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer.
Lightfoot did not have many prospects and was in danger of being defeated early in the election. Having lost the support she once had along Chicago’s lakefront neighborhoods and with major labor unions working against her, Lightfoot was among seven Black candidates competing for votes among the city’s Black population. But she faced stiff competition, especially from Johnson, who had the support and organizational advantages of the powerful Chicago Teachers Union, as well as Willie Wilson, a Black entrepreneur who was voting ahead of Johnson.
Lightfoot’s unfavorability ratings skyrocketed as Chicagoans grew fed up with gun violence, as well as carjackings and robberies. And despite being a sitting mayor, she has regularly failed to lead in recent polls, falling behind Vallas and Democratic Rep. Chuy Garcia. Later in the election, she took specific aim at Johnson, which many saw as a sign that her inner circle saw him as a growing threat to her candidacy.
Regarding the issue of crime, under Lightfoot, Chicago in 2021 reached the highest number of murders in the quarter century, with 797, and more than 3,500 shootings – that’s 1,400 shooting incidents more than recorded in 2019, when Lightfoot went in took office for the first time. Lightfoot has said that the violence had subsided by the end of last year.
But that didn’t ease concerns among Chicagoans. A recent poll said 63% of Chicagoans said they did not feel safe.