by Joe Siegel
Lori Lightfoot made history on April 2 by becoming the first black woman and first openly gay person to hold the office of mayor of Chicago, America’s third largest city.
Late results showed Lightfoot, 56, who capitalized on her status as an outsider in a city long defined by insider politics, won every one of the city’s 50 wards. The reform-minded candidate defeated Toni Preckwinkle, who was for months seen as the favorite to win, and will succeed the outgoing mayor, Rahm Emanuel, later this spring.
|Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot
In electing Lightfoot, Chicago will become the largest American city to be led by a black female mayor. Harold Washington, who was elected in 1983, and Eugene Sawyer, who was appointed after Washington died in office in 1987, are the only two African Americans to have served as mayor of the city. Jane Byrne is the only woman to have served in the role.
“Looking back at our coverage of Lori Lightfoot and [Preckwinkle], I have to say that our coverage was pretty balanced,” said Andrew Davis, executive editor of the Windy City Times (WCT). “They each scored an ‘A’ in our political questionnaire, we interviewed each. twice, and we asked community members who they planned on voting for on April 2,” Davis noted.
In a March 27 WCT story, writer Matt Simonette asked Lightfoot about what the LGBT community could expect if she were elected mayor.
“I want to make our city safe and welcoming for everyone and who you love, the God you worship, the color of your skin cannot control your destiny,” Lightfoot said. “We have to be a city that is welcoming and building bridges of hope and opportunity in every community, including the LGBTQ-plus community.”
Davis noted that the paper’s coverage of Lightfoot going forward will be conscious of her status as an openly gay leader.
“However, given Lightfoot’s achievement of winning the post, we will be covering the historical aspect from an LGBT perspective,” Davis added.
Lightfoot wasn’t the only lesbian politician to be elected to lead a big city. Satya Rhodes-Conway was elected mayor of Madison, Wisconsin.
“I started to see a set of challenges that Madison’s facing that I feel like are our tipping point challenges,” Rhodes-Conway told the city’s LGBT magazine, Our Lives, last month. “If we don’t work on affordable housing prices, that determines what kind of city we are in, in five to 10 years. If we’re not prepared for climate change, ditto. And if we don’t invest in transit, if we don’t tackle racial equity, … it determines what course we go on as a city. And I feel like we weren’t doing enough, in any of those things.”
Our Lives editor Emily Mills said although the paper didn’t officially endorse Rhodes-Conway, “All of our coverage was obviously in support of her candidacy,” based largely on her policies and actions as well as her being part of the LGBTQ community, Mills said.
“We will continue to report on her and her administration in the future with support, but also with honesty and, where needed, constructive criticism,” Mills noted. “I’m not interested in letting someone off the hook or treating them with kid gloves solely because they happen to identify as part of the LGBTQ community. That said, it’s still notable to have out candidates and elected representatives — alas, even in 2019 — and important to highlight any and all progress on that front, in addition to the still very real accompanying challenges.”
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