Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) was denied re-election in a landslide Tuesday, making her the city’s first one-term mayor in 40 years.
Lightfoot failed to qualify for the runoff after winning just 16 percent of the vote, a sobering rebuke from voters frustrated with the city’s crime surge.
Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas and Cook County commissioner Brandon Johnson will advance to the second round in April. Vallas, who ran on a law-and-order platform, won 35 percent of the vote, while the far-left Johnson earned 20 percent.
Chicago’s crime rate soared during Lightfoot’s four years in office, with more than 800 murders in 2021, a 25-year high. Lightfoot had appeared to anticipate defeat, preemptively blaming racism and sexism for her unpopularity in an interview with the New Yorker Saturday.
“I am a black woman — let’s not forget,” Lightfoot said. “Certain folks, frankly, don’t support us in leadership roles.”
When it became clear Lightfoot had been sacked Tuesday, she again blamed racism for her misfortune.
“I’m a black woman in America. Of course,” she said when asked if she had been treated unfairly.
Lightfoot’s arrogant and heavy-handed approach won her few friends in government or outside of it.
“Politics is a game of addition. It’s not a game of subtraction. All she did was subtract from Day One,” Chicago alderman Anthony Beale said.
When she imposed COVID vaccine mandates in 2021, Lightfoot warned, “if you have been living vaccine-free, your time is up.” She provoked controversy when she denounced the “overwhelming whiteness” of Chicago’s media and pledged to only grant interviews to minority journalists.
As crime spiked, Lightfoot often appeared out-of-touch, angering residents with her often bizarre, awkward PR stunts. Only weeks before the election, she received blowback for dancing in a street parade as crime continued to rise.
Racial appeals fell short
During the campaign, Lightfoot attacked Vallas over his ties to Chicago’s police union, painted him as a secret Republican and accused him of “dog-whistling” with his anti-crime message.
But such clumsy racial appeals weren’t enough to save Lightfoot, who split the black vote with six other black candidates.
Despite being emphatically rejected, Lightfoot — the first one-term mayor Chicago has had since Jane Byrne lost re-election in 1983 — insisted the city made progress over the last four years.
“Regardless of tonight’s outcome, we fought the right fights and we put this city on a better path,” she said.