Chicago Elects First Black Lesbian Mayor—But Not All Progressives See It As a Victory

By Ayana Byrd Apr 03, 2019

Last night (April 2), Chicago made history when it elected its 56th mayor. Lori Lightfoot is the city’s first Black woman in the top spot.

Lightfoot was a relative political outsider in the city of 2.7 million residents in the few months preceeding the election. Per The New York Times:


Ms. Lightfoot, who has never held elective office, easily won the race, overwhelming a better-known, longtime politician and turning her outsider status into an asset in a city with a history of corruption and insider dealings. Ms. Lightfoot, 56, beat Toni Preckwinkle, a former alderman who is president of the Cook County Board and who had for years been viewed as a highly formidable candidate for mayor.

Lightfoot ran on a platform that centered equity, inclusion and redistribution of city funds throughout economically challenged neighborhoods. She is an attorney who once served as head of the Chicago Police Board and was a leader of a task force that, the Times reports, “issued a scathing report on relations between the Chicago police and Black residents.”

Various groups are declaring victory today, not just for Lightfoot, but for the progress of electing a Black woman who is also an out lesbian to lead a city. “Now young queer women and women of color can see themselves reflected in a position of major political leadership,” Stephanie Sandberg, executive director of lesbian political action committee LPAC, told The New York Times.

However, not all progressive Chicagoans were in support of her election. A website called #StopLightfoot writes on its homepage that it was created by “young Black, Brown, Native, White queer, trans and gender nonconforming organizers and people who love Chicago, and have worked for years on issues of police violence, immigrant justice, LGBTQ liberation and more.”

The site’s intention is to educate Chicagoans about what it calls Lightfoot’s “faux” progressivism and harmful record on policing, criminalization, immigration and LGBTQ issues. Per the website:


Over the past year, Lori Lightfoot has successfully built an image of herself as a reformer who will bring sweeping change to City Hall. But those of us who have had to experience the impacts of her decisions and deal with her leadership for years know better.”

Black, queer, feminist, Chicago community organizer Charlene Carruthers tweeted the following after Lightfoot’s election, while also referring her Twitter followers to the #StopLightfoot website for more information:


rntWithout mentioning the website, The New York Times made note of those who opposed her election, writing, “Still, her claim of being an outsider was questioned by some younger activists in the city, who pointed to her jobs in the Richard M. Daley administration and as a police oversight official during Mr. Emanuel’s tenure, not to mention her role as a prosecutor.”

Lightfoot takes office at a time when the city’s homicide rate—550 deaths in 2018—is lower than the previous year’s, but still higher than New York’s and Los Angeles’. She must also secure $1 billion within four year to solve a pension crisis, reports The New York Times. Additionally, as tech jobs continue to hike up rent prices throughout the city, thousands of Black residents have moved away from a city distinguished by its deep roots in African-American history and culture.