Chicago elects black, gay woman as mayor in landmark vote

Lori Lightfoot becomes the first African American female and openly gay person to win Midwestern city's mayoral race.

    Chicago elects black, gay woman as mayor in landmark vote
    Lightfoot will join seven other black women currently serving as mayors in major US cities [Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP]

    In a landmark vote, the US city of Chicago has elected its first black female mayor and the first openly gay person to hold the post.

    Democrat Lori Lightfoot, a 56-year-old former federal prosecutor making her first run for elected office, won the Midwestern city's mayoral race on Tuesday in a lopsided victory.

    She beat Toni Preckwinkle, a career politician who is also black, by a wide margin of 74 to 26 percent with most ballots counted.

    "We were up against powerful interests," Lightfoot said in a victory speech, with her wife and young daughter by her side.

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    "Today, you did more than make history, you created a movement for change," she told a cheering crowd.

    Lightfoot will replace outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel, once a rising star in the Democratic Party and former President Barack Obama's first White House chief of staff. 

    Chicago will become the largest US city to have a black woman serve as mayor when Lightfoot is sworn in on May 20.

    She will join seven other black women currently serving as mayors in major US cities, including Atlanta and New Orleans, and will be the second woman as well as the third African American to lead Chicago.

    'Historic moment'

    Lightfoot's ascendancy to the top of the Chicago government was a stunning development in a city where insider deals and entrenched party politics held sway for decades.

    Among the top campaign issues were high levels of gun violence that claims more lives than in other major American cities, and years of political corruption in the Democratic stronghold.

    The initial field in the mayoral race consisted of 14 contenders, but Lightfoot managed an upset in the first round in February- sidelining moderates and establishment figures by promising to clean up the city government and reduce economic inequality.

    Lightfoot and Preckwinkle were the final two left competing in Tuesday's runoff election.

    Both have repeatedly acknowledged the important nature of the campaign.

    "I hope this election tells them [city's children] that no dream is too big or challenge too great. And this is truly an historic moment," Preckwinkle, also the Cook County Democratic Party chair, said during a rally before hundreds of African American voters at the Harold Washington Cultural Center last month.

    "Not long ago, the idea that two African American women would be vying for this spot would have been considered impossible."

    Lightfoot headed a panel investigating the city's policing problems and held a number of appointed positions in city government.

    She has promised to increase affordable housing, fight homelessness and crime, and boost oversight of the police department.

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    Fault Lines

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    SOURCE: News agencies