Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot loses reelection bid

It’s the first time in decades that a Chicago mayor is denied a second term — and it comes after a bruising campaign.
Posted at 8:44 PM, Mar 01, 2023

A historic loss and perhaps a cautionary tale for other mayors across America. 

"I stand here with my head held high and a heart full of gratitude," said Chicago Mayor, Lori Lightfoot.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot failed to advance to her city’s runoff election. 

"God bless this incredible city," Lightfoot said. 

It’s the first time in decades that a Chicago mayor is denied a second term — and it comes after a bruising campaign largely dominated by concerns about crime.  

"I witnessed a carjacking right at my daughter's preschool pick up," said Kristin Samuelson, a Chicago resident.

"If you’re gonna do something about the crime, then yeah, put the police out there like you say you're going to do," said a Chicago resident. 

"There's cops all around, thankfully. But I do think that they should be paid more," said Gabrielle Tatuch, a Chicago resident. 

After making history as the first Black woman and first openly gay person to serve as Chicago mayor, Lightfoot faced a series of crises: the pandemic, civil unrest triggered by the murder of George Floyd, fights with teachers and police unions and above all — rising crime. 

"Mayor Lightfoot, along with mayors all across the country, has had a really tough four years," said Constance Mixon, a professor of political science at Elmhurst University.

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot taking on 8 rivals in reelection bid

Lightfoot faces serious challenges from multiple candidates, who have hammered her over crime and a leadership style they say is combative.


In 2021, the number of homicides in the windy city reached a 25-year high, according to Chicago police.  

Though that number went down last year, for many voters it’s too little, too late amid sensational reports of violence in the city’s downtown, mass transit attacks and children being shot and sometimes killed in gang violence. 

"Crime has always been an issue, but it's been like a second or third issue. But this time it was just front and center," said Jaime Dominguez, a professor of political science at Northwestern University.

Two challengers to Lightfoot’s left and right will now face off to succeed her. 

To the right, former public school CEO Paul Vallas, who is endorsed by the police union, wants hundreds more officers patrolling the streets.  

On the progressive side, former teacher Brandon Johnson has argued that the answer to crime is not more money for police but more investment in mental health services and underserved communities.   

The race illustrates how public safety has become a hugely divisive issue for voters in America’s most liberal cities. 

"Chicago is maybe this epicenter of where democratic politics are, what it looks like in the future," Mixon said. 

Debates on law and order could also shape upcoming mayoral elections in cities like Denver, Philadelphia and Houston. 

In Chicago, the run-off will take place on April 4.