CHICAGO (AP) — Lori Lightfoot made historical past as the primary Black lady and first brazenly homosexual individual to function Chicago mayor, crusing to victory 4 years in the past as an outsider who vowed to rid Metropolis Corridor of corruption and ship a safer, extra equitable metropolis.
However her bid for a second time period could be very a lot in query amid issues about persevering with excessive crime within the nation’s third-largest metropolis and accusations that she is overly hostile and generally flat-out imply — criticism she has dismissed as sexist and racist smears in opposition to a troublesome chief who’s enthusiastic about Chicago.
Forward of a crowded Feb. 28 election, Lightfoot has been pressured to go on the defensive in a heated race that has was each a character contest and a coverage debate.
“Now we have began to alter Chicago round for the higher,” Lightfoot stated throughout a latest debate. “I need to end the job that now we have began.”
With 9 candidates within the race, it’s unlikely that anybody will exceed the 50% threshold wanted to win the formally nonpartisan election outright. Which means the winner is prone to be determined in an April 4 runoff between the highest two vote-getters.
Had been she to lose, Lightfoot can be the primary Chicago mayor in a long time to run for reelection and fail. And in contrast to her predecessors, Lightfoot doesn’t get pleasure from a fundraising benefit over her high rivals.
The election shall be an early take a look at this yr of how crime components into mayoral races in big-city Democratic strongholds. Different main cities electing mayors this yr, together with Philadelphia, are additionally grappling with how you can steadiness progressive beliefs with residents’ day-to-day issues about retaining their households secure.
Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor who had by no means earlier than run for political workplace, emerged from a crowded area in 2019 to defeat much better identified candidates with help from voters weary of political corruption and coverups.
She says her administration has made concrete progress on vital points, from placing cash into neighborhoods which have seen a long time of disinvestment to taking unlawful weapons off the streets. However she notes that the final 4 years haven’t been simple, with a world pandemic and protests over police violence that she stated represented “among the hardest instances that we’ve ever confronted” in Chicago.
Lightfoot’s dealing with of crises has generally drawn reward, comparable to when she ordered lockdowns early within the coronavirus pandemic and a picture of the stern-faced mayor turned a well-liked meme. However at different instances, Lightfoot’s actions have been questioned.
After the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police prompted protests and civil unrest, together with smashing of storefront home windows and fires, Lightfoot ordered the town to lift drawbridges over the Chicago River in an try to dam protesters from coming into the downtown space. Some within the metropolis noticed it as elitist, a method of defending upscale components of the extremely segregated metropolis on the expense of neighborhoods with struggling enterprise districts that additionally suffered severe harm.
However Lightfoot has taken essentially the most warmth for elevated crime, with homicides hitting a 25-year excessive in 2021 with roughly 800. Lightfoot says she has a plan that’s working, noting that homicides decreased final yr. However they’re nonetheless increased than when she took workplace, and issues have grown about different violent crime within the metropolis, together with carjackings.
“We’ve made progress year-over-year,” Lightfoot stated. “However I acknowledge that individuals within the metropolis don’t really feel secure.”
Lightfoot’s most formidable opponent could also be two-term U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a former member of the Chicago Metropolis Council, state Senate and county board who misplaced a runoff eight years in the past in opposition to then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Lightfoot has run TV adverts accusing Garcia of corruption, noting his Home marketing campaign took cash from Sam Bankman-Fried, the previous CEO of cryptocurrency trade FTX accused of huge monetary fraud. Garcia stated he didn’t know Bankman-Fried, and his marketing campaign returned direct contributions.
Garcia touts his file of working with communities throughout the town and taking part in effectively with others in a method that he says Lightfoot doesn’t.
“She is combative, unnecessarily. She is excessive,” Garcia stated.
Elected as a reform-minded outsider who would rid the town of pay-to-play politics, Lightfoot was criticized when a marketing campaign staffer despatched out an e-mail to public faculty academics searching for college students to volunteer for the marketing campaign in trade for sophistication credit score. Lightfoot apologized, calling it a mistake. Inspectors common are reviewing for potential coverage violations.
A few of Lightfoot’s largest battles have been with the Chicago Academics Union, which backed her opponent in Lightfoot’s first run for mayor. The 2 sides butted heads throughout an 11-day academics strike in 2019 and bickered over returning to in-school instruction in the course of the pandemic.
This yr, the academics union has endorsed Lightfoot rival Brandon Johnson, a Cook dinner County commissioner and former Chicago instructor and union organizer. Johnson, who has criticized Lightfoot for working as a progressive after which breaking marketing campaign guarantees, needs to shift cash away from the police division and towards higher psychological well being care and different companies for long-neglected neighborhoods just like the one the place he lives on the town’s West Aspect.
Lightfoot has additionally clashed with the Chicago police union, the Fraternal Order of Police. At a Metropolis Council assembly, Lightfoot was caught on a microphone referring to a union chief as “this FOP clown.”
The police union has endorsed mayoral candidate Paul Vallas, a former metropolis finances director and colleges chief who served as an adviser to the police union throughout negotiations with Metropolis Corridor. He’s repeatedly known as for extra law enforcement officials, saying, “Crime is uncontrolled.”
Lightfoot has criticized Vallas as a Republican in disguise, noting he has acquired marketing campaign contributions from GOP donors. Her marketing campaign blasted him for being too cozy with the police union, calling its chief a “infamous bigot” and supporter of former President Donald Trump.
Lightfoot has elevated her help in some areas of the town. Former Rep. Bobby Rush, a significant critic throughout her first marketing campaign turned outstanding booster this yr, joined Reps. Danny Davis and Robin Kelly — whose districts embrace predominantly Black neighborhoods — in praising her dedication to investing within the areas. Lightfoot maintained that dedication, Rush stated, even “beneath the hardest of circumstances.”
The mayor factors to a file of achievements that embrace pushing by way of a $15 minimal wage that labor unions had looked for years and approval of a long-sought on line casino that’s anticipated to convey hundreds of thousands in income and hundreds of jobs. She additionally has budgeted over $3 million to guard entry to abortion, together with for individuals who journey to Chicago from states the place the process is prohibited.
Along with Garcia, Vallas and Johnson, the opposite candidates working are rich businessman Willie Wilson, Chicago Metropolis Council members Sophia King and Roderick Sawyer, activist Ja’Mal Inexperienced and state Rep. Kambium “Kam” Buckner.
This story has been corrected by deleting the reference to Atlanta as among the many main cities electing a mayor in 2023 and to state that the Chicago Academics Union backed Lightfoot’s opponent in 2019.