On April 2, Chicago will have a runoff election to replace current Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who decided not to seek re-election. The runoff will feature two candidates: Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle. Both are black women, but Lightfoot is a self-described “out and proud black lesbian.” If elected, she’ll be the sixth woman ever to serve as an openly queer mayor of a U.S. city.
In a city-wide election held this past Tuesday, Lightfoot and Preckwinkle received the most votes from a field of 14 mayoral candidates. Lightfoot won 17.48 percent of the vote and Preckwinkle won 15.96 percent.
Lightfoot is the first openly lesbian candidate ever to run for Chicago’s mayor. She was endorsed by the LGBTQ Victory Fund, an organization which helps train and fund LGBTQ candidates nationwide, according to Metro Weekly. As a former U.S. attorney, Lightfoot ran on a campaign of progressive change, tackling police reform as a central issue.
During her campaign, Lightfoot said:
“As an LGBTQ+ person, I thought about running for mayor when no other LGBTQ+ person had ever made the ballot for mayor in this city. And as a mayoral candidate, I traveled across the city and saw people who looked like me and families like mine who were struggling in every neighborhood.
“I’m not here despite these hardships, despite the odds. I’m here because my personal and professional experiences have prepared me to lead with compassion, integrity and persistence. I’m here because I know on a deeply personal level that we need change.”
It won’t be an easy race. Though her opponent has suffered due to her connection to Ed Burke, a city alderman currently under an FBI investigation for corruption, Preckwinkle is also running as a progressive candidate focused on education reform and securing a $15 minimum wage.
As for LGBTQ issues, Preckwinkle wants to tackle violence against trans women and Lightfoot wants to create 24-hour youth drop-in centers and address housing issues for LGBTQ elders and veterans.
If elected, Lightfoot would join the ranks of the five other openly queer women elected as U.S. mayors: Annise Parker, mayor of Houston, Texas; C.C. Smith, mayor of Linn Valley, Kansas (population 804); Amanda Edmonds, mayor of Ypsilanti, Michigan; Gina Genovese, mayor of Long Hill Township, New Jersey; and Jess Herbst, the transgender mayor of New Hope, Texas who came out a year after she was elected.