Feb 28, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Lori Lightfoot ousted in Chicago mayoral election

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot becomes only the second one-term Chicago mayor in 40 years. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Chicago's next mayor will be either progressive county commissioner Brandon Johnson or a former schools chief named Paul Vallas after incumbent mayor Lori Lightfoot was knocked out of the race Tuesday night, AP reports.

Why it matters: It's a stunning upset for Lightfoot, a first-term incumbent who was Chicago's first Black female and first openly gay mayor.

  • She's also the first sitting Chicago mayor to lose in four decades.
  • No candidate won more than 50% of the vote, pushing Johnson and Vallas into a runoff to become mayor of America's third-largest city.

The big picture: Lightfoot secured almost 75% of the vote in 2019, but her rough first term included a global pandemic, civil unrest over the police murder of George Floyd and rising crime.

  • She also faced the departure of high-profile businesses from the city including Boeing, Citadel and Caterpillar, who left or relocated headquarters under Lightfoot's watch.

Yes, but: Lightfoot launched one of the city's most ambitious programs to invest in Chicago's Black neighborhoods and approved the first-ever city casino.

State of play: Lightfoot becomes only the second one-term Chicago mayor in 40 years. The last was Mayor Jane Byrne, who served from 1979-1983.

  • This week, Chicago saw record early voting, boosted by a huge jump in mail-in ballots that tripled the number cast in 2019.

Zoom in: Paul Vallas, the only white candidate in the race, fended off challenges by Lightfoot and six other Black candidates.

  • Vallas, the former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, ran a campaign criticizing Lightfoot's record on public safety and promising to restore law and order. He also won the endorsement of the Chicago police union.

The other side: Johnson, a progressive former teacher, enjoys strong support from the powerful Chicago Teachers Union, which has fought public battles with Lightfoot over contracts and COVID safety.

What's next: Chicago is in for another month of heavy campaigning before the runoff election on April 4.

  • The two finalists, who could court niche voting blocks in the first round, will now have to reach out to the entire city.
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