Why Lori Lightfoot re-election endorsements are important – Crain’s Chicago Business


Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot

First elected as a political outsider pledging a reformer’s agenda in 2019, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is now tying her re-election bid to the established order she once sought to shake up.

Consider three congressional endorsements Lightfoot secured on Thursday.

When Lightfoot challenged Cook County Democratic Party boss and Board President Toni Preckwinkle in 2019, Rep. Bobby Rush took the stage at a Preckwinkle rally to say Lightfoot voters would have “the blood of the next Black man or Black woman who is killed by police” on their hands if she were elected.

After Lightfoot won, Rush apologized for his remarks and has since embraced Lightfoot, arguing yesterday she has the “principles and pugnaciousness” to get the job done.

As he said Thursday at the endorsement event at the DuSable Black History Museum, “That was then.”

Another endorsement came from a man synonymous with Black political power on the West Side: Rep. Danny Davis, who squeaked by in a tight primary challenge of his own this week. Davis edged out progressive challenger Kina Collins with endorsements from President Joe Biden and Lightfoot in his pocket.

Both congressmen touted Lightfoot’s investments through her Invest South/West initiative as key to picking up their support, a policy Lightfoot will heavily rely on in her message to voters as well as future pitches to secure more support from elected officials.

If Rush and Davis can teach Lightfoot a thing or two about coming in as outsiders and staying put as consummate insiders, the third endorsement represents the changing guard of the Democratic establishment in local politics.

Rep. Robin Kelly endorsed Lightfoot in 2019 and backed her again Thursday. Since 2019, Kelly has added a new title to her resume: chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois, taking over from indicted former House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Party insiders elected Kelly to the gig without the public endorsement of Lightfoot, but a year later, with her own reelection looming and facing a new challenge to her nascent reign from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Kelly received a full-throated endorsement of her own from the mayor on Thursday.

But, two days out from a primary where progressive Democrats to the left of Lightfoot had a banner day – not to mention Davis’s narrow victory and Rush’s preferred successor finishing a distant third – are voters ready to keep the incumbent on the fifth floor at City Hall?

Lightfoot acknowledged her new position as establishment incumbent in the mayoral race, saying the “challenge” for her as a candidate is “piercing through that anger, frustration and fear” voters are feeling.

Her campaign “will remind people what we have done for them even in the midst of one of the toughest times that we’ve experienced in our lifetime,” including affordable housing investments and pandemic recovery efforts, she said.

“Because when we do that, I know because I’m in these rooms, these discussions, the lightbulb goes off because, frankly, they’re not hearing it from the media,” she said.

Lightfoot’s campaign war chest has crept over the $2 million mark, according to Illinois Sunshine, which keeps track of political contributions in the state. Expect Lightfoot’s message to reach your living room TV soon enough.

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July 1, 2022 at 07:14AM

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