Lori v. Goliath

Black and white photo of City Hall and the Daley Plaza.

CHICAGO.  Yesterday’s mayoral election put Lori Lightfoot in position to prevail against the entrenched interests that have long determined how things go down in Chicago, interests that in the next phase of the mayoral race will likely back her remaining opponent, Cook County Board president, Toni Preckwinkle.

In yesterday’s election, Lightfoot emerged as the top vote getter, far eclipsing many other of the fourteen candidates who received more media attention and were thought more likely to win.  Lightfoot received some 90,000 votes (17.48 percent), far outstripping Bill Daley (whom the Chicago Tribune endorsed) and state comptroller Susana Mendoza, whose relationship with the corrupt Ed Burke, 14th ward alderman, is such that her wedding was held in his house.  Daley and Mendoza received roughly 76,000 (14.78%) and 47,000 votes (9.09%), respectively.  The second-highest vote getter was Preckwinkle, who received some 82,000 votes (just under 16%), out of a total of 515,771 votes cast.  (Totals are current as of this writing, with the official count still ongoing.)

Because no candidate received a majority, Lightfoot and Preckwinkle will face one another in a run-off election on April 2.

Ironically, Lori and Toni have some similarities. Both are brainy and have roots in Hyde Park. Both have little Afro halos of hair. Both are competent, ambitious, and palpably serious. Lightfoot, in particular, rarely smiles. Both were visibly delighted last night, however, emerging victorious from one of the most unpredictable contests Chicagoans have seen.

Now their contest will get more interesting.  The votes scattered across yesterday’s large field will now be gathered behind the two remaining candidates.  Today will see the Lightfoot and Preckwinkle camps bidding to secure endorsements and support from the candidates who lost.  Who will Willie Wilson, Amara Enyia, Bill Daley, Garry McCarthy, and Gery Chico, throw their weight behind?  How many anti-establishment forces will mobilize behind Lori, and will they end up prevailing over the old interests (including journalistic ones) that favor the incumbents and the status quo?

Toni Preckwinkle was all smiles last night, knowing that party regulars will rally around her.  She will get the money that would have gone to Vallas, Chico, and Daley.  She will get support from all the predictable places: the unions, old party hacks like Berrios and Dorothy Brown, the developers who like aldermanic privilege and want the basics of city government to remain what they are.  Preckwinkle opened her campaign against Lightfoot last night, shrewdly timing her “victory speech” to correspond with the 10 o’clock news.  She received several minutes of free political advertising, broadcast live.  She will position herself as the more experienced executive, with a clearer economic vision and a more palatable tonic for the fiscal ills that have poisoned Chicago.

Lori Lightfoot will run on a platform of fairness, public safety, and equal investment.  She is explicitly anti-establishment but not necessarily “progressive,” as dismantling “the Chicago way” will entail taking on the public unions.  She will get the vote of the poor and the ordinary, the dispossessed and struggling folk of the city.  She will get a lot of the liberal vote–and the vote of the cynics and those seasoned enough to see through Preckwinkle.  She will get the “roulette” voters, who after a lifetime of being betrayed by Chicago’s power elite, will look at little Lori Lightfoot and say “What the hell.”

Image: 1981 view of Chicago’s City Hall and Daley Plaza,
 from this source.

2 responses

  1. I’ve just now read your post; the runoff election occurred almost three weeks ago. Lori has since picked up a number of aldermanic endorsements; O’Shea representing the 19th ward (far southwest) was a huge boost for her: many police, fireman, teachers and lots of city workers live within it. Historically the turnout is very large, those folks vote. Willie Wilson endorsed her; he won 14 south-side Black Wards in the runoff; Chico has endorsed her; the fireman’s local #2 as well; some unions (can’t recall names right now); plus the big-money Latino group that backed Mendoza, tossed $650,000 to Mendoza. Toni’s biggest boost was the teachers union; they will toss big money to her, plus “foot soldiers.” Also, perhaps oddly–old man Jesse White backed Toni. So far, neither candidate has received any “big business” money,i.e, law firms, banks, insurance companies, developers, etc, etc. That money was behind Daley, he had 8-10 million from them!……My take on this election (as of today, March 17th ) is that Lori’s wagon is rolling, more folks are hitching a ride with her now. Toni is ever so defensive (trying to put on a bold face) every time yet another powerful endorsement comes Lori’s way…….Two weeks and two days left in this race, Toni is running scared. People know she represents old hack Chicago and they’re sick of it.

    • Thank you for summarizing their endorsements–I have seen buttons and signs for Lori on the north side–none for Toni. I’m thinking the liberal north-side vote will go for Lori and perhaps the gay vote (especially since Toni is thought to have engaged in some subtle gay-bashing last time the two women met in a debate). Lori is a north-side resident; Toni is associated more with Hyde Park. But mainly I think Toni is seen as the more establishment figure and yes I think that is going to hurt her because Chicagoans want someone fresh and unbuyable. They want change. Many business interests would rather see the machine in place, so they won’t back Lori, but at the same time they don’t want to have backed her opponent if Lori wins. So we might see a surge of support for the perceived front-runner as we get closer to election day.

      By the way, some friends predicted turnout for the run-off will be even lower than for the first mayoral election — they argued that people are going to be turned off at the thought of having to vote for mayor twice. I agree with you that, at the moment, it is looking bad for Toni.

      I continue to hope Lori will win. (I think she may be even shorter than Rahm–and Chicago has a tradition of short mayors–young mayor Daley is very short as well. 🙂 So much for my tea leaves. . . .

      Thank you