Lori Lightfoot is elected mayor
Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

April 2, 2019

The most remarkable thing about Lightfoot’s victory was not that she was the first Black female, openly gay Chicago mayor, as many observers believed. It was the fact that her bid seemed to transcend identity politics altogether. She drew relatively weak support from Black Chicagoans and LGBTQ activists, and her campaign focused less on social issues than on reforming City Hall. It didn’t hurt that some of her opponents got torpedoed by their connection to tainted alderman Ed Burke. Lightfoot’s election was a clear signal that Chicagoans wanted to put Burke’s style of backroom politics in the rearview mirror.

From the Archives

June/July 2019 issue
Photos: Michael Zajakowski

For the June/July 2019 cover story, Edward McClelland traced the unlikely career trajectory and political fortunes of the Ohio-born daughter of a janitor. Lightfoot described to McClelland the impression the city made on her when she first visited as a college student in the 1980s.

“You look out into this thing, it’s like something from a movie into the future, looking at this megalopolis. … It was kind of mind-blowing. Then we drove along the lake, which was also magnificent. I’d just never experienced anything like this.”