Lori Lightfoot helps rebuild trust during mayoral race

In a crowded political race, it can often be difficult for voters to feel like they have an effective understanding of each candidate. With long-winded speeches and dense jargon, it’s sometimes tricky to discover the essence of each candidate. For Chicago mayor hopeful Lori Lightfoot, however, the gist is clear: advocating for those who need it the most.

While this is Lightfoot’s first foray into the mayoral race, she is no stranger to politics. Lightfoot’s official campaign website details her previous experience as Assistant United States Attorney, President of the Chicago Police Board, and chair of the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force, among other positions.

Lightfoot demonstrated her enthusiasm for the seat early on, announcing her candidacy four months before Mayor Rahm Emanuel stated he would not plan to run for a third term as mayor.

“I got into this race back in May because I know Chicago needs change. In this city, we have world-class talent everywhere,” Lightfoot said in a candidate profile for WTTW Chicago. “What we have been lacking is a leader who is willing to take on the status quo and carve a new, progressive path forward for this city.”

Lightfoot’s humble background as the youngest of four children in a working-class family seems to have influenced her politics. Some of Lightfoot’s proposed policies include eradicating racial and structural inequalities in Chicago Public Schools, a greater emphasis on environmental cleanup in the city and providing more affordable housing citywide, according to Lightfoot’s campaign website

Lightfoot’s dedication to promoting equality among different demographics will help her appeal to young liberals in the city, many of whom feel that Emanuel’s time in office was overrun with corruption.

Ian Teunissen is a DePaul senior and operations intern on Lightfoot’s campaign. He believes that Lightfoot is sincerely dedicated to mending the distrust between the city and its government, stating that it sets her apart from other candidates.

“In my opinion, Ms. Lightfoot is set apart by her commitment to reform,” Teunissen said.  “She believes that Chicago city government needs to be cleaned up, and she backs her words with action.”

Lightfoot holds the distinction of being the first openly-lesbian candidate to ever run for the mayoral seat in Chicago. If elected, she will be both the first member of the LGBT community and the first black woman to serve as mayor.

Teunissen stated that, if elected, Lightfoot could highlight issues faced by both black and LGBT communities in Chicago.

“I personally believe that greater political efficacy and confidence in government comes from seeing your ideas, issues, and beliefs represented on all levels of government,” Teunissen said. “Thus, seeing someone like Lori Lightfoot as mayor could be incredibly impactful for thousands within these underrepresented and marginalized communities.”

Lightfoot appears to recognize the impact of her status as a queer politician, with bolstering LGBT rights and visibility being a massive part of her campaign.

“I feel so lucky to have accepting parents, a loving wife and daughter, a strong community of friends, and an inclusive city—but I want to build a world where luck isn’t the primary part of the equation,” Lightfoot said in an op-ed for Essence. “All across the country, there are LGBT youth who risk losing their families when they come out, who must move across the country to find somewhere they can be themselves, and who must hide parts of who they are as they go to work each day.”

If Lightfoot were to win the race, she would join the surge of women elected to office in the past year. In the 2018 midterm elections, a total 117 women won elections all across the country, according to The New York Times. According to the same report, 42 of the 117 were women of color and at least three belonged to the LGBT community. The staggering amount of women elected lead many to call 2018 “The Year of the Woman.”

While Lightfoot’s status as a proud black lesbian running for office will certainly help endear her to liberal voters, she may face trouble capturing a more conservative vote.

“[Lightfoot’s race and sexual orientation ] certainly would help her win favor in the LGBT community, and it certainly helps her with a lot of white liberals and the North Side millenial vote,”  said John McCarron, an associate professor in the College of Communication and Chicago politics expert.

McCarron followed this point by positing that while Lightfoot may be able to secure votes from young liberals, it is possible she will struggle to win over more religious, conservative members of the black community.

“A lot of people think ‘if you’re black, you’re liberal’ and guess what? It’s not always so,” McCarron said.

Lightfoot has consistently projected an aura of cool confidence and intelligence that will likely help her win favor with residents of Chicago looking for a positive change in office.

“She comes across as extremely  intelligent, articulate, she has a very businesslike bearing about her,” McCarron said. “She seems to be an executive-type individual. My impressions so far have been very positive of her.”

With the crowded mayoral race heating up, Lightfoot has set herself apart from other candidates through her commitment to improving the lives of individuals, and translating that to a political forum.

“I hope my campaign can inspire people who grew up like I did, and that I can serve as an example of someone who dares to dream and stands up in times of uncertainty,” Lightfoot said in an op-ed for Essence. “I hope Chicagoans can join together in this campaign and beyond to build a city where everyone can live as their true and authentic self.”