On Tuesday, Chicagoans were headed to the polls to vote for a successor to Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Residents were choosing between two African-American women, guaranteeing that Chicago will become the largest American city to elect a black woman as its mayor.
Competing in the runoff election are Lori Lightfoot, a lawyer and former federal prosecutor, and Toni Preckwinkle, the president of the Cook County Board and the chairwoman of the county’s Democratic Party. Both women beat out 12 other candidates in an election in February, a who’s who of well-known names that made up the most crowded ballot in municipal history.
But on the eve of the runoff, the historic nature of the election was greeted in Chicago with both pride and nonchalance, a sense that electing an African-American woman as mayor would be significant, but not seismic.
Maybe it is because Chicago has already seen such milestones, sending the first African-American president, Barack Obama, to the White House; helping elect the first African-American woman to the United States Senate, Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois, in 1992; and making Harold Washington the city’s first black mayor in 1983.
“It is tremendous,” said Josie Brown Childs, a civic leader who worked for Mr. Washington in the 1980s. “But Chicago has been on the forefront of certain black politics, whether it was with Harold or Obama. We’ve been in the lead on those things.”
In interviews around the city during the run-up to the election, Chicagoans said they were carefully weighing the platforms and promises of Ms. Preckwinkle and Ms. Lightfoot, watching their performances in televised debates and considering what kind of leader the current moment in Chicago demands.
“For me, personally, I’m asking, ‘Who is going to be the break from politics as usual in Chicago?’” said Jordie Davies, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Chicago whose dissertation focuses on political activism. “I’m excited about two black women. But I’m looking at records. I’m looking at who is going to offer the most holistic platform for addressing problems in Chicago.”
The new mayor must contend with a host of complicated issues in the nation’s third largest city….
image….Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle before the start of their final on-air debate.CreditMichelle V. Agins/The New York Times