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On Tuesday, March 28th, Mrs. Lori Lightfoot became the first mayor of Chicago to lose a re-election bid in four decades. The abysmal results of the race likely put an end to what has been a dramatic career spanning the era of COVID lockdowns and protests against police excesses.

Here are some of the most important highlights from Mayor Lightfoot’s three-decades-long career:-

1)  A Youth of Struggle

Born to a working-class family of color in Massillon, Ohio, Lori Lightfoot was far from destined to become a prominent figure in American politics. Both her parents held menial jobs in the local neighborhood, and Lori followed suite for much of her twenties. Lightfoot has claimed to have held seven different jobs to pay for her education, which included a Bachelor from the University of Michigan in 1984, and eventually a degree in law from the University of Chicago Law School five years later.

From the early-1990s to 2010s, Lightfoot slowly climbed her way up in Chicago, from working at a private law firm to the head of the city Police Board thanks to her work ethic and commitment to public service. In this position, she oversaw a substantial increase in law enforcement convictions for overreach of authority, and most notably chaired a civilian board aimed at reforming the city police after the murder of Laquan McDonald.

Her first-ever bid for the office of Mayor was a success.

2)  Mayor of Chicago

In April 2019, attorney Lori Lightfoot became the Mayor of America’s third largest city in a run-off that she won by a margin of 47%. Her election alone marked a significant victory for both progressive Democrats, as well as socially marginalized groups. After she was sworn in, Lightfoot made history as the first Lesbian, first Black woman, first interracially-wed, and first Ohio-born Mayor of the majority-nonwhite city. Mayor Lightfoot immediately became a household name.

3)  Accomplishments as Mayor

Unlike the stunning performance at the polls, Lightfoot’s mayoral term did not go as planned. Nevertheless, she made significant efforts to keep her promise to Chicago residents, earmarking a record number of funds for the underprivileged communities in South and West side Chicago, as well as pushing to raise the minimum wage in the city to $15 per hour. Her term was also marked by strong progressive discourse, reflecting her longtime commitment to social justice issues.

Her mayoral term was rocked by both the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying lockdowns, as well as the tumultuous protests as part of the Black Lives Matter movement from 2020 onwards. All in all, her handling of both can be deemed a success, as Lightfoot herself has also proudly claimed.

4)  Controversies

Of course, Lightfoot’s term was not without its downsides, which ultimately led to her unsuccessful bid for re-election this week. Lightfoot has sparked controversy numerous times with her vociferous allegations of racism, sexism, homophobia, and bigotry against her political opponents, which was very often the reason she made her way to the national spotlight. Even as she conceded her defeat, Lightfoot publicly blamed racism and sexism for the outcome.

In one instance, Mayor Lightfoot even refused to grant one-on-one interviews to White reporters on the occasion of her two-year anniversary of election, and publicly defended the decision until she was sued for discrimination.

Similarly, her decision to sharply increase the budget of Chicago Police Department during her term, even diverting over $280 million in federal relief money to law enforcement, stirred controversy compared to her sharp rhetoric on police reform.

Ultimately, it was the high violent crime rate in the city that dominated the 2023 election cycle, and led to Lightfoot’s downfall as the first incumbent to leave office after one term since 1983. Instances of murder spiked to a quarter-century high in 2021, falling only 14% from the alarming 800 last year. Instances of theft also reportedly doubled from 2021 to 2022. Much of this is, of course, attributable to the larger pattern seen worldwide in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it did give a successful talking point to her opposition, both among Republicans and moderate Democrats.

Anthony Tilghman

Anthony Tilghman, is an 3x Award-winning Photojournalist, Education advocate, Mentor, and Published Author with years of experience in media, photography, marketing and branding. He is the Winner of the...

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