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Lori Lightfoot going on Stephen Colbert show, speaking at Democratic LGBTQ fundraiser

In New York trip, mayor will debut on Colbert, mine the high-roller gay Democratic community and meet with former and present Mayors Bloomberg and de Blasio.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

Taking on an even larger national profile among high-roller gay Democratic Party donors, Mayor Lori Lightfoot will hit New York to speak at the Democratic National Committee’s 20th annual LGBTQ gala Monday after she tapes “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

Earlier on Monday, Lightfoot will be meeting with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to discuss the climate change and environmental projects he is bankrolling with his fortune.

During her Manhattan stay, she will huddle with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, also a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.

The New York travel, the second trip out of the city since becoming mayor, is a mix of government and political business with the “centerpiece” of the New York trip the DNC speech — with the fundraiser tab ranging from $1,250 to $100,000 a person, according to the invite.

The new Lightfoot administration is trying to work out a balance between her growing political world and the demands of running the city.

“I want to make sure that any time I’m going out of town, I’m coupling it with business purposes as well,” Lightfoot told reporters Friday.

Lightfoot suggested she will come on the Colbert show — to air Thursday — with some prepared bits but was not showing her hand. “We have a couple of fun things that we’re gonna do with him,” she said. She called herself a “huge fan” of Colbert, a Northwestern University graduate.

She also responded to questions about travel - with former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s trips used as a point of comparison.

“I think you absolutely have to strike the right balance. But any time that I can go to another city — particularly large cities like L.A. or now New York — and learn from leaders there about a number of different issues, I’m going to take advantage of that opportunity. There’s things that you can learn by being in the room with people that’s different than talking to them over the phone or reading a policy paper. But we’ll strike the right balance.”

Stephen Colbert will have Mayor Lori Lightfoot on his show next week.
Stephen Colbert will have Mayor Lori Lightfoot on his show next week.

Departing Sunday and returning on Tuesday night, Lightfoot also plans meetings on Wall Street and to hold “one or two” political events of her own, according to Lightfoot campaign spokesman Dave Mellet.

Earlier this month, the mayor flew to Los Angeles and drove to Palm Springs, California, a gay community mecca, to headline a fundraiser for a political action committee organized by former Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, and to lay groundwork for her own future campaign fundraising.


Lightfoot will be the kickoff speaker at the New York event, which is her second swing away from Chicago since taking office May 20.

Three of the 24 presidential contenders will be addressing the gala: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who, as is Lightfoot, openly gay; U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota.

The U.S. House members listed on the invitation as scheduled to speak include Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, Mark Takano of California, Sean Patrick Maloney of New York and Sharice Davids of Kansas, all who are openly gay.

Lightfoot comes on the national scene in the year of the 50th anniversary of the historic Stonewall uprising in New York and as gains that the gay community have won in the past have increasingly come under attack.

At a Chicago City Council meeting Wednesday, aldermen approved a resolution marking the anniversary of the riot that’s credited with kicking off the gay rights movement and giving birth to gay pride parades. Lightfoot spoke that day about how far the gay rights movement has come and how far the city and the nation still need to go.

”This is a remarkable time that we’re living in, and it really speaks to who we are as a community and who we are as a city,” Lightfoot said. “We have accomplished things that I certainly wouldn’t have imagined possible in my lifetime.

”The fact that I’m standing here — who I am, what I represent — says a significant amount about the residents of this city, the voters. We have to be a place that stands for inclusion. Not only in the city of Chicago, the state of Illinois, but in the country.”

While there have been “many victories” along the road to gay marriage, Lightfoot said, there is “still a lot of work that needs to be done” to deliver equal rights to all LGBTQ Americans.

”Our trans brothers and sisters still suffer daily discrimination,” the mayor said. “And too many of our LGBTQ youth, particularly youth of color, are homeless and out on the street.”

But she said, “I thank God for the work that’s been done by so many on whose shoulders I certainly stand and people in the community that are fighting hard every day. We do have a lot to celebrate.”

While in Los Angeles, Lightfoot mixed in official city business, with meetings with top Los Angeles Police Department brass about crime-fighting strategy and about that city’s experience with a consent decree and federal court oversight of its police department. That’s a long and costly road that has just begun for the Chicago Police Department.

Details of the city business Lightfoot plans while in New York were still being finalized Friday, according to Mellet and mayoral press secretary Anel Ruiz.

In Los Angeles, Lightfoot wanted to meet with Mayor Eric Garcetti, but he wasn’t in town.

And speaking of mayors on the road: Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego hits Chicago on June 27 for fundraising.