Months after the 2018 elections, the rainbow wave continues to wind its way across America. Chicago is the latest city to taste the rainbow, making history with its election Tuesday night of Lori Lightfoot, the city’s first openly gay and first black woman mayor.
Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor, had never held office but she was prompted to run after the shooting of Laquan McDonald by a white police officer and then-Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s response to it.
Emmanuel had appointed Lightfoot as President of the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force, which, after meeting with residents, produced a report accusing the Chicago Police Department of systemic racism. The report also found that the CPD acted without sufficient oversight and had lost the trust of the city’s populace.
After the report, Lightfoot distanced herself from Emmanuel, and when he decided not to seek a third term, she joined a crowded field of candidates. The 56-year-old criticized Emmanuel’s shuttering of dozens of schools, primarily in black and brown neighborhoods, and emphasized reform of the long-embattled Chicago Police. Some within Chicago’s black political establishment, however, questioned Lightfoot’s ties to the CPD and backed her opponent.
In the end, the new mayor of Chicago was bound to be a black woman—Lightfoot’s opponent was Toni Preckwinkle, a retired schoolteacher who served on the City Council for 19 years and has been Cook County Board President since 2010.
Though only four percent of America’s biggest cities has a black woman as mayor, that number has grown significantly in recent years. Of the 19 black women who have been mayors in America’s 100 largest cities, more than half are currently serving.
And with her victory in Chicago, Lightfoot joins Madison, Wisconsin’s Satya Rhodes-Conway and Kansas City, Missouri’s Jolie Justus as the Midwest’s newly-elected lesbian mayors.
“Today, you did more than make history,” Lightfoot told a crowd of her supporters after her win. “You created a movement for change.”