On Tuesday night, residents of Chicago waited by television sets, computers and even some made their way downtown to a few campaign parties to see who would be our next mayor, or at least who would receive the largest amount of votes, deeming them eligible to participate in the run off.
And in somewhat of a surprise, residents learned that we would have a Black woman as mayor. The top candidates, Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle, will face off in the runoff election on April 2.
Lightfoot came in as the top vote getter and took to the podium to thank her supporters first. She spoke to her supporters at Evolveher, a co-working space, around 9:15 p.m.
“So what do you think of us now?” a jubilant Lightfoot shouted.
She thanked her family and staff for encouraging “us to keep fighting.”
“I thank those who had the courage to stand with our campaign against the machine. …To anyone out there eager to join our team and our fight, welcome aboard.
“This my friends is what change looks like. We will be in the neighborhoods tomorrow…we will see you out in the streets fighting until April 2 when we take this out to victory.”
Lightfoot thanked the other candidates who ran for mayor. “14 candidates was a lot…thank you for fighting through the noise and coming to a place where we brought in the light. We need to continue to have this very important dialogue about our city’s future, about the narrative of who we are going to be…one that includes us in every neighborhood.”
She pointed out the doubts people had about her winning the campaign.
“They said there was no path for a new reformer…people said that I had some good ideas but I couldn’t win, and it is true that not every day a little Black girl in a low-income family from a segregated steel town makes the runoff to be mayor of the 3rd largest city in the country. I have to thank my parents again for everything they gave me. I am standing here because of them.”
Lightfoot repeatedly lifted up the fact that her brother had spent much of his adult life in the prison system and that we needed criminal justice reform. She said her father passed away while her brother was in jail and wished her father was here to “see his son is free and doing the best he can…and his daughter has a real chance to become [mayor of Chicago.]”
The self-described “LGBT plus” lawyer said she had seen people just like her and her family struggling. “I know first-hand how it feels to work multiple jobs and still struggle to support a family…how it feels to have a brother incarcerated for most of his life…I’m here because I know we need change. This election is going to be about whether we resign to the status quo or fight for what is right…accept only investing in downtown while neighborhoods cry for attention…every neighborhood school should get the investment it deserves….you are making this happen. Our city is changing and we feel it right here in this room and across the city. It’s time to bring it home. We got 5 weeks and we have lots of work ahead. We start tonight and tomorrow….[we will] bring [campaign] to every neighborhood…inspire, uplift, mobilize people. Onward to victory on April 2.”
Preckwinkle took to podium at her election night site at Lake Shore Café later in the night after 10 p.m. with a confident and a broad smile. She said, “We should acknowledge that history is being made…It’s clear we are at a defining moment in our history…but challenges our city faces are not simply ideological….we need to fight to change [Chicago’s] course.”
She laid out how her team had worked and shared her resume to boost her as the most experienced candidate.
“We worked shoulder to shoulder …we are a coalition of shared values, we laid out a vision, we’ve taken clear stands and have committed clear plans to make sure our city finally works for all of us.”
Preckwinkle said the mayor needs to be “an ambassador of this city, voice of real working families that live in all of our community” and the mayor also needs to be able to run the city, pointing to her experience.
“It’s not enough to stand at a podium and say what you want to see happen…you have to come with the capacity to make your vision a reality.”
Preckwinkle continued by saying, “I’m not afraid of big challenges or hard work…my entire career has prepared me for this moment…”
She ended her speech with, “When it finally comes down to it, I’m doing this for my grandkids. I want to make sure they have access to a great education and real opportunities and that they are safe and happy and thinking about their future and not worried about their present…this race isn’t about me, it’s about all of us, our shared vision for our city, all the mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles who are worried about the direction this city is headed. They want to see us learn from the past, not repeat it.”
Preckwinkle said everyone deserved the “opportunity to build safe, prosperous and productive lives. I will work hard as your mayor but I need your help. This is our moment.”
“Are you with me?” she repeated several times in a rallying cry.
Others Concede (Except Wilson)
Candidate Bill Daley shared with his supporters at Venue at 9:30; “I congratulate Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle, one of them will be our mayor. … I thank the people of the City of Chicago…thank all those who ran and presented ideas for the future. Thank all who voted including those who voted for my opponents…I respect your choices. Thank everyone who voted for me and I’d also like to thank those who contributed to me…”
Daley said he was proud of the campaign he ran and said change would be coming.
Earlier in the night, Gery Chico and Garry McCarthy gave concession speeches.
“I believe in my heart we all have to pull together,” Chico said. “We fought a great fight every step of the way.”
McCarthy said he was looking at the numbers for those who would make the runoff and he said “I couldn’t possibly endorse [some of the candidates].”
Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza took the podium to conceded, saying “it feels like I won…look at this room…We don’t know exactly what happened tonight unfortunately our campaign will not advance to the run off…we knew why we were running, about the future of Chicago, the future generation not just the next 4 years. Everyone deserves a share in this…my eyes are only set on the future. I’m undaunted because the fight goes on; this is a fight worth having.
“Because you and I believe in a Chicago, no matter the block you live in…that this city wants you, this city needs you and you are a part of this future. For everyone who voted for me and even those who didn’t, know that I see you, I hear you and I’ll never ever stop fighting for you….”
Later in the evening, around 9 p.m., Amara Enyia took to the podium at her election night site at Lacuna Lofts. She lifted up her family as her foundation.
“I want to acknowledge how we got here and what this campaign has meant to so many people across this city, across this country….” She thanked her campaign team and her family.
Jerry Joyce and Paul Vallas conceded soon after.
Willie Wilson, who looked like he was fourth in the race, spoke to gatherers at his election night party at the Swissotel but refused to concede. He thanked the chairman of Republican party and young republicans who supported him and said we needed to all pull together. He continued to share his faith, saying ”We come this far by faith leaning on the everlasting God.” He left them with a prayer and said he’d see what happens tomorrow morning. “Keep the faith and never, ever give up. Good things are for people who work hard for the right thing.”
Paul Vallas gave Lightfoot’s campaign a nod, saying that her making the runoffs mean “the city wants real reform.” He pointed out that Lightfoot didn’t have as much money as the other front runners. He said he looked forward to seeing who the next mayor would be “whoever she is,” alluding to the historic runoff between two Black women.
April 2 will be another historic day in our city!