Alderman Sophia King (4th) has entered the Chicago mayoral race, becoming the first Black woman to challenge incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and the seventh Black candidate to join a crowded field that threatens to split the Black vote in the February municipal elections.
There were six Blacks among 14 candidates who ran for Chicago mayor in 2019. This season’s crop of nine Black candidates is already larger than 2019’s and with five months to go before the elections the field may grow even bigger.
So far, Alderman King may be the most polished of the group, but she may lack the broad appeal needed to be a major threat to the city’s first Black female mayor.
That leaves the door open for a strong candidate who appeals to Chicago’s white, Latino and Black voters. So far none of the candidates meet that standard, fueling concern that Lightfoot may win a second term by default.
Mayoral candidates must win 50 percent of the vote in the primary to avoid a runoff.
King is the second Black alderman to enter the race since Roderick Sawyer (7th) joined the field earlier this year. Another alderman, Raymond Lopez (15th) is also in the race. Outgoing Alderman Tom Tunney (44th) is also considering joining the race. State Representative LaShawn Ford is also mulling a run.
King, 57, has clashed with Mayor Lightfoot on several issues. The latest involved a proposed ordinance that would have raised the threshold on the speeding limit for the speed cameras, which hurt Black and Latino neighborhoods more than any other part of the city. She also opposed Mayor Lightfoot’s curfew ordinance for teenagers visiting Millennium Park.
In a video announcement, King attacks Lightfoot’s dictatorial leadership and Chicago’s violent crime. Last month, aldermen King and Pat Dowell (3rd) said Mayor Lightfoot did not speak with them before announcing that a NASCAR race will be held next year in Grant Park, which includes King’s 4th Ward.
“There’s a lot of tension in this city,” King told the Sun-Times. “I provide leadership that would bring collaboration. People are looking for that kind of collaboration. They’re looking for us to do more and better together.”
In the video, King says, “Violence is not an abstract problem to me. I have seen the pain it causes way too many times. There’s no question about it. We have to hold the people who commit violent crimes accountable. And we have to hold our leaders accountable, too.”
King was appointed alderman of the 4th Ward by Mayor Rahm Emanuel after the abrupt resignation of her predecessor, Will Burns. She has since been re-elected twice with convincing wins in a diverse ward that includes the South Loop, Bronzeville and Hyde Park.
In her video, King is supported by former CPD Commander Crystal King-Smith (no relation); retired educator and Hyde Park resident Bill Gerstein; Robin Robinson, who served as a special adviser of community affairs to the Chicago Police Department.
King described violent crime as “issue No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3” with Chicago voters. She said she would look at restoring some or all of the 614 police vacancies that Lightfoot eliminated to help balance her 2021 budget.
King told the Sun-Times that she will start attacking the problem by firing Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown.
“Superintendent Brown was the wrong choice to lead CPD, coming from the outside. Not really understanding the city or the districts,” King told the Sun-Times.