Chicago guaranteed to elect its first black woman mayor

Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle have emerged from a crowded field of candidates to move on to a runoff in Chicago’s mayoral race, meaning the Windy City will elect its first black woman mayor in city history this spring.

Lightfoot had won 17.48% of the vote and Preckwinkle had 15.96% with 95% of precincts reporting, according to the Board of Election Commissioners for Chicago.

The two will meet in a runoff set for April 2, according to CNN affiliate WBBM. The winner will replace Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who decided against running for re-election.

Lightfoot, a former assistant US Attorney, describes herself as “an out and proud black lesbian” and has made reforming the police department a bedrock of her campaign.

In the wake of the Laquan McDonald scandal — in which a white police officer Jason Van Dyke shot the black teenager 16 times as he walked away from police — Lightfoot was appointed by Emanuel to head the newly created police accountability task force.

Preckwinkle is the Cook County Board president and has made education and a $15 minimum wage focal points of her campaign.

She had been considered a frontrunner. However, a recent Chicago Tribune report put Preckwinkle on the defensive. The report claimed that Preckwinkle hired the son of a powerful old-school alderman, Ed Burke, to a $100,000 a year job with the county. Burke was recently charged with attempted extortion after the FBI raided his offices in January.

The winner will become the second woman and the second African American elected Chicago’s mayor, according to the Chicago Public Library. Jane Byrne was elected in 1979, and Harold Washington was elected in 1983.

Eugene Sawyer, a black man, also served as acting mayor of the city for two years.

14 candidates

Chicago’s mayoral race exploded even before Emanuel announced in September that he would not run for a third term.

“As much as I love this job and will always love this city and its residents, I’ve decided not to seek re-election,” Emanuel said. “This has been the job of a lifetime, but it is not a job for a lifetime.”

Fourteen candidates were on Tuesday’s ballot, one of the largest fields in the city’s history.

And yet, the race drew remarkably low turnout.

The Board of Election Commissioners reported a turnout of 32.84% with 95% of precincts reporting. According to WBBM, the previous record for worst municipal election turnout in Chicago was in 2007 with 33%.