The long, grueling but historic race for mayor entered its final stretch Sunday in Chicago, where two women promising to break barriers clearly had the end in their sights.
Toni Preckwinkle asked churchgoers to “keep me in your prayers.” And Lori Lightfoot urged her supporters to “keep your foot on the gas.”
No matter who wins Tuesday’s runoff election, Chicagoans are poised to send a black woman to the mayor’s office for the first time in its history. But even if the history is certain, the history maker is not. So Preckwinkle and Lightfoot spent the last Sunday of the campaign roaming the city for last-minute votes.
Preckwinkle’s day began at five churches on the West and South sides, where the Cook County Board president sought support at the polls — and from the divine.
“Please, please come out and vote. But, more importantly, keep me in your prayers,” Preckwinkle told congregants at Greater Rock Missionary Baptist Church on the West Side.
In a brief chat with reporters, Preckwinkle said she thought the race would be close, and she laughed when asked how her nerves were doing.
“I got a good night sleep, so I’m fine.”
A short distance away, attorney Lightfoot marshaled her troops at three West and South side campaign offices before volunteers headed out to knock on doors.
To add a few inches, Lightfoot stood on a cardboard box full of copy paper at her South Shore office before delivering a leave-it-all-on-the-field pep talk.
“I need you now and until the polls close on Tuesday night. Do not rest. Keep your foot on the gas,” she told an enthusiastic crowd of about 50 people.
While visiting her Englewood campaign office, Lightfoot bounced to the beat of African drums that were played by a group of women in traditional African garb.
Asked what Preckwinkle could say to help heal wounds inflicted by weeks of campaign nastiness, Lightfoot responded: “Congratulations, mayor.”
Preckwinkle, asked the same question, didn’t answer directly.
“You know this has been a hard campaign; we’re looking forward to victory on Tuesday,” she said.
Earlier this week, at the behest of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the two candidates signed a unity pledge, agreeing to hold a no-hard-feelings news conference the day after the election that will decide which candidate will become the first black woman to lead the city.
Lightfoot jokingly referred to the agreement as a “non-aggression pact.”
To unwind Sunday evening, Lightfoot planned to hang out with her wife and daughter and catch up on the NCAA basketball tournament.
Lightfoot, who doesn’t drink coffee, said she’d have a regular Coke if she needs caffeine in the closing hours of the race.
Preckwinkle planned to take her dog, a mixed-breed pit bull named Don, for a walk Sunday night.
“It’s my chore,” she joked.
Each candidate boiled down their messages Sunday, with Preckwinkle focusing on inequality between neighborhoods and Lightfoot largely concentrating on breaking away from the city’s political machine past.
That’s the message Lightfoot delivered at Barney Callaghan’s Pub Sunday night, where she sipped on a black and tan after speaking to supporters in West Beverly.
“We need to have a resounding mandate to put a stake in the heart of the corrupt political machine and move forward in a different kind of city that’s inclusive of everyone in every neighborhood,” Lightfoot said.
Early voting continues until 5 p.m. Monday around the city at all 50 ward sites and in the Loop at 175 W. Washington. Seven sites — the Loop location plus Wards 4, 12, 19, 28, 41, 47 — will remain open until 7 p.m. Monday, according to the Board of Election Commissioners website.