A Station for Everyone
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

2 African-American Women In Runoff Election To Be Chicago's Mayor


Chicago voters went to the polls to choose a new mayor. And the two candidates who won the most votes are both African-American women.


TONI PRECKWINKLE: We may not yet be at the finish line, but we should acknowledge that history is being made.


MARTIN: That's one of the winners there, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. She will face former federal prosecutor Lori Lightfoot in a runoff. The winner will succeed Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who decided not to seek a third term. NPR's Cheryl Corley is covering this and joins us this morning.

Hey, Cheryl.


MARTIN: These two candidates were running in a very competitive field, weren't they? Fourteen people wanted this job.

CORLEY: (Laughter) There were 14 people. And, you know, that's very unusual. This was a wide-open election since Mayor Rahm Emanuel decided not to seek re-election. And this is only the fourth time in nearly a century that an incumbent was not running. And initially, Rachel, 21 people had filed to run, but only 14 ended up on the ballot. And that included the president of the Cook County Board, Toni Preckwinkle, as you mentioned, who we heard in that opening clip.

And it also included William Daley, the former commerce secretary under Bill Clinton and chief of staff to former President Barack Obama. Now, Daley is part of a political dynasty here in Chicago. His father, the late Richard J. Daley, and his brother, Richard M. Daley, are the two former mayors who held the city's top job for a combined 43 years. And Bill Daley was hoping to extend the family's run.

But it took more than 50 percent to win the race outright, but everyone expected, because there were just so many candidates, that there would be a runoff with the top two vote-getters moving on because, you know, 14 people. But Daley wasn't among those top two vote-getters. Instead, two African-American women were.

MARTIN: Wow. So the second person - so it's Toni Preckwinkle, and then the second person who will be in this runoff is Lori Lightfoot. She's a former federal prosecutor. Can you tell us more about her?

CORLEY: Yeah. Lori Lightfoot is the first openly gay woman to run for mayor of Chicago. As we mentioned, former federal prosecutor. She served as the head of Chicago's Police Board. And she's been very critical of efforts to reform the Chicago Police Department, especially in the aftermath of a fatal shooting of a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, by a white police officer in 2012. Lightfoot has lived in Chicago for some time, but she grew up in Ohio in a very modest household. And she focused on a range of issues during the campaign. And she said that people told her she had good ideas but couldn't win.


LORI LIGHTFOOT: And it's true that not every day that a little black girl...


LIGHTFOOT: ...In a low-income family from a segregated steel town...


LIGHTFOOT: ...Makes the runoff to be the next mayor of the third-largest city in the country.


MARTIN: So now another election starts, right? I mean, the campaigning for the runoff has already started?

CORLEY: Yes, absolutely. It began right away. Lori Lightfoot has never held elected office. Toni Preckwinkle served nearly 20 years on the city council before she became president of the Cook County Board. And she came out swinging during her speech to supporters, taking it directly to Lightfoot. She said it's not enough to stand at the podium and talk about what you want to see happen. You have to come to the job with the capacity and the capability to do it. Make your vision reality. The runoff election is set for April 2.

MARTIN: OK. NPR's Cheryl Corley. Thanks, Cheryl.

CORLEY: You're welcome.

[ POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The fatal shooting of LaQuan McDonald by then Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke occurred in 2014, not 2012. ] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.