Toni Preckwinkle and Lori Lightfoot went toe-to-toe in Chicago’s mayoral runoff election. After all the ballots were tallied Tuesday, April 2, 2019, voters chose Lightfoot as the city’s newest leader.
Lightfoot joins the ranks of the many Black women who are being chosen to lead cities all across America. Yesterday, the third-largest city in the United States joined the growing number of municipalities that are making history in this country.
As Lightfoot also makes history as the first Black woman and the first openly gay mayor of Chicago, there is an evident excitement that the city will be “reformed” as her campaign promised.
Chicago operates under a political system where the mayor is given strong powers in guiding the priorities of the city. Lightfoot will be able to address and redress issues such as police reform, mental health, educational policy, and the minimum wage. She will be able to appoint department commissioners or directors and members of city boards and commissions, including the police, fire, education, housing and transportation departments. She will be able to oversee city expenditures, guide plans for the future, and review city council ordinances.
Thus, these strong mayoral powers coupled with Lightfoot’s promises to end corruption, to help low-income families, and to address excessive use of force by police officers, there is a sense of hope that is felt throughout the city’s streets — that Lightfoot’s leadership will bring change. However, because Lightfoot has never been elected to public office, only time will tell whether she will actually be able to fulfill these promises.
Despite any skepticism about Lightfoot’s leadership capabilities, there is something unique that she as a Black woman will bring to her mayoral role — a passion for civic engagement. The democratic power of Black women can be evidenced by the most recent presidential elections where the voting power of Black women was undeniable. Black women voters turned out at the highest rates of any race and gender subgroup. This proven commitment to being active members of the democratic process is exemplary of what transformative leaders this demographic can truly be.
While Lightfoot may run into a learning curve, her legal background, her diverse perspectives, and her verbalized commitment to reform will serve her well in her new role.