Chicago Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot contended that the landslide defeat against her reelection campaign was attributable to “right-wing forces” and racial bias.
Lightfoot, who overwhelmingly won the city’s mayoral election four years ago but failed to advance to the runoff this year, will depart office next week. She will be succeeded by Brandon Johnson, the left-wing former commissioner of Cook County, who defeated Paul Vallas, the more moderate former chief executive of Chicago Public Schools.
Lightfoot said in a Monday interview with MSNBC that she lost because of national political tumult that caused divisions in Chicago, which she admitted is a “deep-blue Democratic city.”
“We came up short, but I leave my office with my head held high,” she asserted. “What we, I think, taught our city and taught the country is how to operationalize equity, whether it’s historic investments in affordable housing, the environment, our youth, coming up with a public safety that wasn’t just dependent upon law enforcement first and only.”
Lawlessness nevertheless rose dramatically during Lightfoot’s four-year tenure: there were 490 homicides in the Windy City as of 2019, the year in which Lightfoot assumed office, while murders soared to 772 in 2020 and 800 in 2021, marking an increase of more than 58% as nationwide Black Lives Matter protests occurred in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Lightfoot, who has a personal police unit with 71 officers assigned to protect her life, meanwhile proposed eliminating $80 million from the Chicago Police Department budget in 2020.
MSNBC contributor Al Sharpton asked Lightfoot whether she believes her race played a role in her defeat, even though her successor is also black. Lightfoot, who has repeatedly cited her race and her self-identification as a lesbian when describing her defeat, claimed that the reelection strategy of former President Donald Trump relied on attacking “cities and mayors” like herself, referencing Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta and Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C.
“There’s no question, Reverend Al, that there are some people in Chicago and across the country that don’t want mayors like me to succeed,” she continued. “When the person with the biggest megaphone and biggest stage attacks you in a way that Trump attacked us, it unleashes a set of forces that are hard to control. Those dog whistles that were blown in 2020 are still resonating today, and it was fed by the uncertainty and the anger, and then funded by right-wing forces that wanted to take down a big-city mayor.”
Lightfoot acknowledged that her successor is even more left-wing than herself even as she said that Republicans had conspired to end her career. “Unfortunately the people who were jumping on the bandwagon of a Republican posing like a Democrat now got a democratic socialist as the mayor, so be careful what you wish for,” she remarked.
Beyond the city’s dismal record on public safety, Chicago also has the second-highest tax burden in the nation for combined state and local sales tax rates, according to a study from the Tax Foundation. Lightfoot had introduced a property tax increase but reversed the policy ahead of her reelection campaign, according to a report from the Illinois Policy Institute. Prominent businesses such as food processing company Tyson, airplane manufacturer Boeing, constriction manufacturer Caterpillar, and hedge fund Citadel announced their exits from the city during her tenure even as Lightfoot said on her campaign website that she created “an environment that supports and sustains entrepreneurs and workers who make Chicago their home.”