Lightfoot marks one-year anniversary of landslide victory

Until the coronavirus pandemic brought everyday life to a halt, Lightfoot’s biggest concern had been her war on poverty and her plan to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in 10 inner-city neighborhoods.

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Lori Lightfoot celebrates at her election night rally at the Hilton Chicago on April 2, 2019. She defeated Toni Preckwinkle mayoral runoff election.

Lori Lightfoot celebrates at her election night rally at the Hilton Chicago after defeating Toni Preckwinkle in the 2019 Chicago mayoral election,

Sun-Times file

One year ago to the day, Lori Lightfoot swept all 50 wards on her way to becoming the first African-American woman and first openly gay person elected mayor of Chicago.

Little did she know she would be called upon to lead Chicago through the public health crisis of a lifetime, one that would force her to close the entire lakefront and all of its parks and beaches.

On Thursday, Lightfoot reflected on her one-year anniversary with seldom-seen emotion on the day that Chicago lost its first police officer to the coronavirus.

“This isn’t the day that I thought it was going to be and thinking about April 2. But I’m grateful every day that the good Lord wakes me up and gives me the opportunity to serve the city,” the mayor said.

“It’s been the honor of my lifetime. When the voters of this city gave me such a resounding victory, winning all 50 wards by such a large margin, I was incredibly humbled and I remain so. We’ve been through a lot in this last year — more than, I think, anyone would have expected or anticipated.”

Until the coronavirus pandemic brought everyday life in Chicago to a screeching halt, Lightfoot’s biggest concern was her war on poverty and her plan to target 10 inner-city neighborhoods for an unprecedented $250 million city investment and $500 million more from other government agencies.

She was being pressured from the left to deliver civilian police review and more money for the homeless and affordable housing. She was also trying to tamp down a spike in homicides and shootings and choose a permanent replacement for fired Police Supt. Eddie Johnson.

Now, COVID-19 occupies nearly every waking moment. Every day there are more deaths. Even more people test positive. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. Only a “pinprick,” as she put it.

Even so, Lightfoot said she is grateful for the support she continues to receive from total strangers who give her the thumbs-up—in spite of the policing role she never wanted to play that has fueled a hysterical string of memes.

“In this really unprecedented time, I’m reminded every day of how amazing the people in this city are. People are stepping up and really pushing past their comfort levels to be of service to total strangers in this time of need,” she said.

“I’m following their example and encouraging myself, my team and the entire city to really embrace this moment — as horrific at times as it feels — because the only way we get to the other side of this is by being lock-step together and knowing that our fate is wrapped up in each other. When the light at the end of the tunnel comes, it’s gonna be because of the sacrifices each of us have made in service of the larger good.”

Lightfoot was asked how she is holding up personally. She choked back tears, having just talked to and consoled the dead officer’s widow.

“In this moment, I’m very sad. … Those are very hard conversations to have. ... Having been through death and grief myself, these moments are so surreal and they’re so hard. I’m feeling that for that family,” the mayor said.

In an emailed message to her campaign supporters, Lightfoot marked the anniversary by saying it “helps to remember all the things that make our city great and the sacrifices we are making today to return to that reality.”

She added: “I’m looking forward to catching a Sox game, grabbing a pint at my favorite pub, listening to live music in person, shaking hands with worshipers at Sunday services and hugging a small child again — all without hesitation.”

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