Lori Lightfoot slayed the dragon and killed the machine as she becomes the new mayor of the City of Chicago when she is sworn in on May 20th.
Lori ran a positive campaign. She won all of the wards in the city – that means she gathered the major ethnic groups, and with mixed demographics she took the city by storm, leaving no community unturned.
She was focused, determined and worked for nearly a year, visiting all 77 communities, to tell Chicago she was the change needed to remake and refocuse the city by the lake with a magnificent mile.
She spoke with calm, poise and elegance. She made her case just like the prosecuting attorney that she is. She stepped to the moment of change. Some say they never saw her coming, but she kept coming, like a turtle.
I heard her loud and clear when I first met her. She was impressive. She follows the new American trend of politics. The novice, the newcomer with a strong message, a minority female with a strong righteous voice is the new winner of American politics. Lori followed that path. She studied the campaigns of Washington and Obama, recording the principals of winning. She listened to the experienced as she polled and canvassed.
She broke traditional political established rules. She did not have the most money, or the most TV commercials, or the biggest TV buy; she didn’t even have the most signs. But she did have the most determination and the grit to win and a persuasive power message.
She didn’t even have the most experienced team. She worked with newbies, with the advice of veterans, and she herself put a winning formula together. She knocked on doors, she went to small gatherings and on the freezing sub-zero record-breaking days, she was at the bus stop with her literature, often alone. She had the stuff of a winner. She presented her self completely, claiming her authentic self, unapologetically.
Lori ascended when the Chicago Sun-Times endorsed her in the primary in a most unusual way. It was on the front page and the endorsement was three pages of editorial telling why they supported her over the experience of others, her seniors.
Endorsements matter. This Sun-Times endorsement alone caterpillared Lori into the forefront. The experts claimed that the election would come down to Bill Daley and Toni Preckwinkle. It didn’t. The clarion cry was new and change. The public said clearly no more machine.
Lori carried the torch. She beat out 13 candidates; I call it the Trump factor. She stood toe to toe, sometimes on a hidden box, in the debates and spoke to the issues only. She spoke to what people care about – crime in the streets, education and new ideas.
Toni Preckwinkle lost what she should have won. She was an angry attack dog displaying hostility. She was the experienced politician who climbed the ladder to the top of the party. She projected herself as a progressive and a party chief at the same time. She was at best a compromised politician and a party contradiction.
She did everything wrong as she constantly projected her self negatively and recited her resume repeatedly. She had no message beyond a balance budget and she lived in the ghost of the sugar tax proposal. She was fighting all the way, with nasty remarks, aggressiveness at the debate table, and even dropping a clever bomb on Lighfoot’s sexuality on a television debate to remind those who might not realize it that Lori was a married gay person. It all backfired.
The party chair had a series of incidents that just didn’t play in her favor. The indictment of Alderman Eddie Burke with her named as a donation beneficiary, the insane remarks of Congressman Bobby Rush at a “yawl come” rally. The house of dirty tricks fell to the ground and burned. She summoned the most established, old guard, and well-healed to her side as she floundered.
Many were in her camp not because of herm but rather they were protecting their business interests. The flyers that were anonymously placed on the cars one Sunday after church emphasizing Lori’s gayness, the throw away signs, the nasty commercials, the lies and beatup on social media led to Toni’s defeat, handsomely.
The day of dirty politics has passed; people see through it. People know evil when they see it. Her mean-spirited campaign was so depraved that it has been revealed that even inside the campaign, where workers were paid and on “Team Toni” they still voted against her. Toni didn’t even carry her own ward. Now she suffers as a weakened politician and while she holds the position of head of the party, she must face the reality that the Democratic machine died on her watch.
Lori took her time as she mapped her way. She announced her candidacy when Rahm Emanuel was probably going to be the opponent and the polls were definite that he could not win a third term. She entered the race early, long before others, who were running other campaigns to assure their established positions were in place before leaping into the unpredictable mayor’s race.
Lori went into every neighborhood as she promised. She touched the people, she held hands, she hugged, and she was comfortable and unrushed. Most of all she listened. She related to the guy in the street, who might have been jailed, she heard the concerns of corporate.
She addressed audiences with a Chicago universal message; this was her magic sauce. She stood unafraid as she drove herself in a little car. She was respectful and prudent as she met all. The vote dynamic was triple-fold. One vote was for Lori, another against Toni, and yet another against the machine. No matter the reason, the votes went to Lightfoot’s victory.
Sometimes, destiny calls. I firmly believe Lori is in the right place at the right time and that Chicago benefits. She has much to do as mayor, to establish a staff probably mixed with the experienced and the newbies, to take on the big issues, to consolidate a new City Council, to tackle the pension deficit, and to bring forth a new Chicago order. She has hit the ground running with major meetings with political principals as she establishes her very own playbook.
Lori slayed the giant and killed the machine and we are on our way to a new Chicago that will thrive on equity for all.