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Lightfoot, Preckwinkle trade compliments, pledge to work together

Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot (left) shakes hands with former mayoral candidate Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. They were joined onstage by Rev. Jesse Jackson for a press conference at Rainbow PUSH Wednesday morning. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

With chants of “The Mayor! The Mayor!” echoing around her, Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot heaped praise on Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, as the two stood side-by-side Wednesday, trading compliments after a tough campaign.

Lightfoot, appearing with Preckwinkle and other high-profile African American leaders at Rainbow Push Coalition on the South Side, pledged to work with Preckwinkle on a host of issues.

“While this was a spirited campaign, those shared values will serve us well as we work together for the good of the city and the good of the county,” Lightfoot said.

Preckwinkle, who like Lightfoot drew a standing ovation, called the campaign a “hard fought” one.

“We have some real challenges ahead of us in our county and our city, and I look forward to working with Mayor-elect Lightfoot to address those challenges,” Preckwinkle said.

A little later, taking reporters’ questions, Lightfoot vowed to “hit the ground running.”

“Honeymoons come and go, and I want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to really breathe life into the historic nature of this election — with two African-American women running; that is a huge change in our city, which we cannot underestimate,” Lightfoot said.

When Lightfoot was asked why it took so long for the city to elect a black woman as mayor, someone in the crowd yelled: “You know why — racists!”

Lightfoot replied: “I can’t look into the crystal ball. All I can do is the here and now and say: ‘Here I am, and now we move forward.’”

Lightfoot had started her day by greeting commuters at the Clark/Lake station on the Loop L and making similar conciliatory remarks about her future relationship with Preckwinkle.

Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot greets commuters Wednesday at the Clark/Lake CTA station in the Loop. Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor who’d never been elected to public office, defeated Cook County Board President and former City Council member
Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot greets commuters Wednesday at the Clark/Lake CTA station in the Loop. Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor who’d never been elected to public office, defeated Cook County Board President and former City Council member Toni Preckwinkle. | Victor Hilitski/Chicago Sun-Times

They both share a progressive agenda, she said. The trick will be having that transcend a campaign that got ugly fast.

Preckwinkle portrayed Lightfoot as a “wealthy corporate lawyer” who represented the nation’s “elites.” Preckwinkle’s supporters used racially incendiary rhetoric to portray Lightfoot as a protector of police officers who use excessive force; that effort fell flat. So did homophobic fliers plastered on car windshields outside black churches.

Lightfoot was even forced to blow the whistle when Preckwinkle used their first debate to compliment Lightfoot for being openly gay; Lightfoot wondered aloud whether it was a not-so-subtle reminder to those who may not already know.

Still, Lightfoot said, “we have to” get along.

“We both have overlapping jurisdictions and the citizen of the city of Chicago that are obviously also citizens of Cook [County] are gonna look to us be leaders and put the campaign behind us. And I’m determined to do that.”

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BROWN: Lightfoot, Preckwinkle and the road not taken

Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot (left) holds hands with former mayoral candidate Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle during a prayer at a press conference at Rainbow PUSH Wednesday morning. | Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot (left) holds hands with former mayoral candidate Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle during a prayer at a press conference at Rainbow PUSH Wednesday morning. | Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times