Mayor Lori Lightfoot began her campaign for a second term as mayor on Wednesday with a whistle-stop tour focused on the South and West sides, vowing to battle the forces that continue to segregate Chicago and exclude Black and Latino residents from getting their share of city resources and investment.
Lightfoot began her five-stop tour at the Starlight Restaurant in Ashburn on the Far South Side, where she told the crowd those who oppose making Chicago a more equitable place to live were determined to deny her a second term.
“The city is a big, beautiful mosaic,” said Lightfoot, who held only one campaign stop on the North Side Wednesday. “And we’ve got to make sure that residents and neighbors south of Roosevelt Road and west of Ashland get their due.”
Before heading to Brown Sugar Bakery in Greater Grand Crossing, the mayor who won every ward in the 2019 election and nearly 74% of the vote claimed the mantle of an outsider.
“When I got into office, the people who were used to having their way — who were used to dominating our city — they wanted their city back and they’ve been fighting against us every single day,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot’s events were tightly scripted, with the mayor’s campaign team only releasing the specific location of the events to preapproved members of the news media. At every stop, she was greeted by recipients of city grants, friendly members of the City Council and handpicked endorsers.
At both morning stops, Lightfoot touted her leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic that has sickened more than 620,000 Chicagoans, hospitalized approximately 43,000 of them and killed 7,711 people.
Lightfoot took questions twice Wednesday from reporters, and both times declined to offer specifics about what she would accomplish if she wins a second term. But she did not miss an opportunity to heap contempt on those she sees as preventing progress in Chicago.
“Haters are gonna hate,” Lightfoot said. “Haters are going to hate.”
Five major challengers have already announced bids to challenge Lightfoot’s re-election bid: Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward), former CPS CEO Paul Vallas, state Rep. Kam Buckner, businessman and philanthropist Willie Wilson and Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th Ward).
During the 2019 campaign, Lightfoot had a singular focus on reforming Chicago’s government with dozens of policy proposals and a detailed platform. Lightfoot’s dark horse campaign capitalized on anger with City Hall corruption, which remains unchecked.
Pressed twice by WTTW News on Wednesday, Lightfoot did not pinpoint a similar issue at the heart of her nascent re-election campaign, saying several times she would listen to what Chicago voters wanted from her and their municipal government.
Lightfoot said she would make fighting crime her No. 1 priority, but did not offer new proposals or signal a new approach to public safety.
“People don’t feel safe,” Lightfoot said, quickly citing data that shows shootings and murders have dropped so far this year, as compared with the same period in 2021. But last year was the most violent year in Chicago in approximately 25 years, putting Lightfoot and Chicago Police Supt. David Brown, her hand-picked choice to lead the department, on the defensive.
While all five of her major opponents would fire Brown, Lightfoot said the city’s top cop has her full support.
Anyone who would dismiss him reveals that they “don’t know anything about public safety,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot twice blasted Cook County judges for “letting violent, dangerous people right back out on the street after charges have been brought.”
“This is the priority,” Lightfoot said. “Of course it is the number one issue. We’ve got to make sure people feel safe. That starts with increased police presence and increased police accountability.”
Lightfoot acknowledged Chicago’s small businesses — which she called the “backbone of our economy” were still struggling and pledged to keep listening to their owners about what they need from the city with the focus of a “laser beam.”
“The core things have not been solved,” Lightfoot said, adding that she would continue to press the federal government to provide more aid to them and urged banks to invest in businesses owned by Black and Latino Chicagoans.
During a lunch time stop at La Catedral in Little Village, Lightfoot vowed to prevent immigrants from being discriminated against, and vowed to protect undocumented immigrants.
At Revolution Workshop, a construction job training facility in West Garfield Park, Lightfoot stood alongside Ald. Jason Ervin (27th Ward), who offered the most direct and public praise of the mayor of the day, lauding Lightfoot’s Invest South/West program. City officials say that effort has resulted in $1.4 billion of investment in 10 South and West side neighborhoods.
While Lightfoot has made a wide array of enemies since taking office, Ervin is not one of them. At the start of Lightfoot’s tenure, he said he was skeptical of Invest South/West — and nearly derailed the mayor’s plan to allow the legal sale of cannabis.
But Ervin said Lightfoot won him over, and praised her for investing more in the West Side during her four years in office than former Mayor Richard M. Daley did in 22 years and former Mayor Rahm Emanuel in eight years.
Lightfoot’s last stop of the day at Sidetrack in Northalsted, the heart of Chicago’s gay community, was disrupted by a man incensed that Lightfoot said Monday that those charged with violent crimes should be held before trial because they are “guilty” if they have been charged. Illinois has more wrongful convictions than anywhere else in the nation, according to a recent study.
Thoughout the day, Lightfoot bristled at suggestions that she faces an uphill battle to become the first woman to be re-elected as Chicago mayor.
“I’m a Black woman in America,” Lightfoot said. “People are betting against us every single day.”