Lightfoot ends second quarter with $2.5M in campaign fund after raising $1.25M

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot smiles at constituents and supporters during a campaign stop with First Lady Amy Eshleman on June 8 at Starlight Restaurant in the Ashburn neighborhood.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has $2.5 million in her campaign war chest — three times the take for her next-highest competitor, except millionaire businessman Willie Wilson — after raising $1.25 million in the second quarter.

One day after former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas dropped $836,500 into his mayoral campaign fund, Lightfoot saw Vallas’ opening bid and raised him by $413,500.

That leaves the mayor with $2.5 million in cash on hand to bankroll what is almost certain to be an uphill battle for re-election.

Veteran political operative Victor Reyes said Lightfoot’s fundraising is improving, but nowhere near enough to overcome her 25% approval rating in all of the recent polls.

To do that, she needs anywhere from $6 million to $8 million with the election just seven months away and circulation of nominating petitions scheduled to begin in September.

“She needs to do better. If your polling numbers aren’t where you want them to be, you need to be able to tell your story. And the only way to tell your story is to communicate, which costs a lot of money,” Reyes said.

“One week of good communication — television, digital, mail — is $700,000. So, she’s barely got 2.5 weeks of communication money. That’s not even counting staff and other political operations. You really need to have a minimum of 2-5 weeks of money to run a full-on campaign.”

Reyes said what is most surprising about the 2023 mayoral election cycle is that Chicago’s “big money” interests are “still sitting on the sidelines — either for her or for someone else.”

Two blue-chip candidates — former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Chicago) — flirted with running for mayor, but ultimately took a pass even though both men had polls that demonstrated how vulnerable Lightfoot is.

“There’s a lot of confusion out there. There’s a lot of folks waiting to see whether there’s going to be other high-quality candidates. By this time in the last 30 years, the election would be more formed. The fact that it’s not well-established yet is surprising,” Reyes said.

After a first-quarter fundraising frenzy that was her best since taking office, Lightfoot still had just $1.7 million in cash in her primary political account.

Since then, millionaire businessman Willie Wilson joined the fray and contributed $5 million to his own campaign, blowing the cap on fundraising for all 2023 mayoral candidates.

Lightfoot has yet to file her final fundraising report for the second quarter, but her latest so-called A-1 filings includes just two six-figure contributions: $100,000 apiece from Carpentry Advancement Political Action Labor Fund and $100,000 from philanthropist and perennial Democratic donor Fred Eychaner, CEO of Newsweb Corp.

The mayor also reported a $50,000 contribution from Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts and $25,000 apiece from LPAC, which focuses on supporting lesbian candidates; philanthropist Abby McCormick O’Neil; advertising executive Dale Taylor and Jennifer Steans, president and CEO of Financial Investment Corp.

In a press release touting her second quarter results, Lightfoot said she is “grateful to the supporters who are Ridin’ with Lori” by bankrolling her re-election campaign.

“When I announced my reelection bid last month, I promised to never back down from the tough fights that lie ahead. I will continue to tackle our biggest problems head on, like continuing to bring down violent crime, standing up for women’s bodily autonomy and access to high quality reproductive care, helping bridge the financial burdens that too many Chicagoans face and continuing investments in neighborhoods that have been neglected for decades,” the mayor was quoted as saying.

“Change doesn’t happen overnight, but we are seeing what happens when we join together and focus on making a difference in people’s lives. I am honored by the support of so many Chicagoans and I will keep fighting every day for you.”

In an emailed appeal for contributions on the final day of fundraising for the second quarter, Lightfoot defiantly refused to apologize for or retreat from her obscene reference to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

She reminded her supporters that Thomas argued in his concurring opinion that the Supreme Court “should reconsider its past rulings protecting contraception, same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage.”

“That’s why, when someone in the crowd at an event this weekend yelled, ‘F**** Clarence Thomas,’ I yelled it right back. And I meant it,” the mayor wrote.

“Clarence Thomas wants to make women and members of the LGBTQ+ community second-class citizens. His beliefs are a direct attack on my personhood, and I will condemn them EVERY CHANCE I GET.”

 

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July 7, 2022 at 05:42PM

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