More than 35 years after Chicago elected Harold Washington as mayor, the city is once again at a defining moment in history after the election of Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday.
Lightfoot, who will become the first African-American woman to ascend to the office of mayor next month, will make history when she does so, and those who had a front row seat to the historic election of 1983 say that she has a unique opportunity to move the conversation forward on numerous issues.
“The kind of racial animosity that Harold faced in 1983 and 1987 we did not see this time,” Washington’s Vice Mayor David Orr said. “You have areas of the city that are more diverse, and even more white that were welcoming of her.”
Orr drew other parallels between Lightfoot’s election and the election of Washington in 1983, saying that both candidates seemingly emerged from nowhere to win.
“Harold kinda came out of nowhere, a little bit like Lori,” he said.
Lightfoot and Washington both positioned themselves as choices for change in the way the city operates, and Lightfoot will like face the same tough challenges that Washington did when he ascended to office.
“Power never wants to give up anything. Lori wants change, (but) how is she going to reach those changes?” Orr asked.
Lightfoot will also be the first openly gay mayor of the city when she is sworn in on May 20, and activists are ecstatic at the message that her election sends to the city, and to the rest of the country.
“For the city of Chicago to demonstrate to our community, and to the nation at large, that you can be an African-American woman and an LGBTQ person, and lead in this city is such a reflection of our values,” Equality Illinois CEO Brian Johnson said.
Lightfoot will be sworn in as Chicago’s 56th mayor on May 20.