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Chicago Poised to Elect Its First Black Female Mayor, Candidates Move On to April Runoff

Chicago is on track to elect its first Black woman mayor in the history of the Windy City, as candidates Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle prepare for a mayoral runoff to see who will take the top spot, The Chicago Tribune reports.

Of the 14 candidates on Tuesday’s ballot, Lightfoot secured 17.4 percent of the vote, while Preckwinkle won 15.9 percent with 95 percent of the precincts reporting, according to the Chicago Board of Elections. Turnout was low, however, with just 530,787 — or 33 percent — of the city’s one million some-odd voters showing up to the polls.

The two candidates will meet again in a historic runoff set for April 2, local station WBBM reported. The winner will replace longtime Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who declined to run for re-election.

Lightfoot, a former assistant U.S. Attorney who is openly gay, has made reforming the city’s embattled police department the bedrock of her campaign, according to CNN. As head of the police accountability task force created in the wake of the Laquan McDonald shooting, she criticized the overall practices of Chicago PD and later issued a “scathing” report that called the community’s distrust of police “justified.”

Lightfoot also won an endorsement from the Chicago-Sun Times, whose editorial staff said her work as an effective leader for the city’s residents “from the hedge fund managers to the fast food workers,” made her the most noteworthy of the 13 other candidates. The paper also lauded the former federal prosecutor for operating with “honesty and integrity.”

“This, my friends, is what change looks like,” Lightfoot, 56, told a crowd of her supporters Tuesday night. “I want to thank the voters of this great city for fighting through the noise and coming to a place where we brought in the light.”

Preckwinkle, 71, currently serves as Cook County Board president and has made issues of education and a livable $15 minimum wage her top campaign priorities.

Preckwinkle was once considered a front-runner in the race but found herself in the midst of a controversy after a Chicago Tribune report claimed that she hired the son of alderman Ed Burke for a $100,000 salary job with the county. Burke, who recently won re-election in the city’s 14th ward, is currently facing federal corruption charges of attempting to extort a local Burger King owner. The alderman has denied the allegations, however.

“We may not yet be at the finish line, but we should acknowledge that history is being made,” Preckwinkle said at Tuesday night rally, the Chicago Tribune reported. “It’s clear we’re at a defining moment in our city’s history, but the challenges that our city faces are not simply ideological. It’s not enough to say Chicago stands at a crossroads. We need to fight to change its course.”

The winner of next month’s runoff will become the second woman to be Chicago’s mayor after Jane Byrne, and the third African-American mayor after, Harold Washington (1983-1987), and Eugene Sawyer, who served as acting mayor for two years (1987-1989).

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