Crusader Staff Report
Lori Lightfoot resigned as president of the Chicago Police Board Monday, May 7, setting the stage for a heated battle against Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a crowded race that continues to grow with prominent Black candidates.
After months of speculation, Lightfoot announced her campaign for mayor at the Hyatt Regency Chicago on Thursday, May 10. Lightfoot has hired a fundraiser, and campaign consultant and a firm to handle her direct mail.
Lightfoot will be the sixth Black candidate and second Black woman seeking to become the first Black female mayor in the city’s 181-year history. Two weeks ago, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown entered the race for mayor.
Overall, there are eight candidates vying for mayor. Last week, former Chicago Public Schools Chief Paul Vallas announced his campaign for mayor.
Ra Joy, the political activist who ran alongside businessman Chris Kennedy in his failed Democratic gubernatorial campaign, this week hinted at entering the mayoral race.
Lightfoot resigned from the Police Board before helping decide the fate of Chicago Police Officer Robert Rialmo, whom the Chicago Office of Police Accountability (COPA) has recommended for termination. Rialmo fatally shot Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones following a 911 call to an apartment on the West Side in 2016.
The case is one of several that has boosted Lightfoot’s profile as she pushed for police reforms against opposition from City Hall, and Superintendent Eddie Johnson.
A former prosecutor and strong advocate for police reform, political strategists say Lightfoot has the potential to be Emanuel’s strongest opponent with her independence from the political establishment and heavy background in law enforcement. She’s expected to challenge Emanuel, whose administration is fighting several lawsuits after the mayor backpedaled on a promise to enter into a consent decree that would have implemented police reforms under court oversight.
Lightfoot’s move comes as Emanuel is still trying to restore his credibility in the Black community as the Laquan McDonald case continues to drag out in pre-trial hearings that are now two years old.
The case has cast a dark cloud over City Hall and with the election a year away, questions remain whether Emanuel will be able to win a third term in office without facing Lightfoot or other opponents in a runoff.
There is concern that the power of the Black vote will be split or even weakened with the growing field of Black candidates.
Political experts say in addition to unifying the Black community, Lightfoot has also been able to win the support of white progressives. Some say Lightfoot’s mayoral ambitions may materialize if she puts together an effective campaign and assembles a strong coalition.
With no political experience, there is concern that Lightfoot’s name and profile is not broad enough to appeal to a larger section of voters who can propel her to City Hall. But lingering distrust and disillusionment in the political establishment may just be enough for Lightfoot to come out on top.
Perhaps Lightfoot’s biggest potential is her openness and push for transparency in Chicago politics and the police department. On Tuesday in the Chicago Sun-Times, May 7, Lightfoot condemned Emanuel, calling his leadership an ‘us-vs.-them’ style of government.
Lightfoot said she believes that there is a “wide, wide spread of the public that believes” Emanuel deliberately withheld video of the Laquan McDonald shooting until after the 2015 reelection.
She said economic justice, violence and police reforms have either “stagnated or gotten worse” since Emanuel reappointed her as Police Board President in 2017. She also called Emanuel’s plan to build a $95 million complex in West Garfield Park “ill conceived.”