Spurred on By Upset Win, Lightfoot Gains Momentum Ahead of Runoff

Lightfoot says there has been increased enthusiasm surrounding her campaign in the week since the election

Coming off her Feb. 26 Chicago mayoral election win, Lori Lightfoot is charging hard ahead with a little less than a month until the runoff election.

Lightfoot says there has been increased enthusiasm surrounding her campaign in the week since the election. She said that in the last week alone, her campaign has received contributions from more than 2,000 new small donors.

The first ads of the runoff election have been unleashed and while Lightfoot went for an ad with a positive message, her opponent, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, went with an attack ad that focuses on Lightfoot’s career as a former corporate lawyer.

She said that even though she is now perceived as a front-runner, she will continue to run her campaign "as an outsider and as an underdog, because that’s what we are."

Supporters of Preckwinkle have been knocking Lightfoot’s lack of experience managing a large, complicated budget, unlike Preckwinkle who has led Cook County for eight years. Lightfoot said the criticism is "not accurate," citing her time working in the Chicago Police Department’s 911 center and procurement department.

"I was responsible for making and meeting [Chicago Police Board] budgets," Lightfoot said. “I was responsible for hiring employees and training them. So all the elements that go into running the city, I’ve had experience in every single facet." 

Lightfoot also addressed a social media post that she offered 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack positions as either the City Council floor leader or the chair of the Finance Committee in return for his endorsement. Lightfoot called the social media post "nonsense," and Waguespack told NBC 5 he fired the advisor who created the post from doing any political work.

"I’m not a person who starts measuring the drapes before I even get into the office,” Lightfoot said. "Nothing is guaranteed, nothing is promised."

In a blow to both Preckwinkle and Lightfoot, the Chicago Federation of Labor, an organization that represents 300 unions and about 500,000 Chicago and Cook County workers, declined to endorse a candidate.

Bob Reiter, the president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, said that both candidates align with the group’s positions, but its union affiliates wanted to make their own decisions about who to endorse.

"Where we’re at now is our affiliate unions want to meet with both candidates and figure out where they are on their specific issues," Reiter said. "They don’t know a whole lot about Lori Lightfoot yet, no one was really expecting her to be in the runoff."

Preckwinkle has the support of other powerful unions like the Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU Local 1, but Lightfoot has yet to receive any serious backing from organized labor.  

Jesse Sharkey, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, said that Lightfoot’s win has not swayed their endorsement of Preckwinkle, even though their positions on education are similar.

"Our goal was to get our candidate into the runoff, and we achieved that goal," Sharkey said. "So that looks like success. So why should we reverse ourselves when we see success?" 

Lightfoot said her campaign has "made a convincing case to members of organized labor" and she will continue making her case to other unions.

In the Feb. 26 election, Lightfoot won big in the mostly-white North and Northwest Side neighborhoods. But in order to take the whole pie in the April 2 runoff, she’s going to need support on the South Side, where Toni Preckwinkle and Willie Wilson dominated.

There is also a vacuum in the largely-Hispanic Southwest Side, where Comptroller Susana Mendoza was the favorite in the Feb. 26 election.

Rep. Jesus "Chuy" Garcia said he plans to meet with Lightfoot, and she earlier did an interview with Univision, signaling she’s trying to snap up the Hispanic votes that the ousted candidates left behind.

"[The Hispanic community] has a friend in me. I’m a woman of color, I’ve been discriminated against," Lightfoot said. "I know how important it is that we unite together around equity, inclusion and social justice." 

NBC 5 reached out to Preckwinkle for an interview today but she was unavailable.

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