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Lightfoot: It’s ‘not a gimme’ I’ll seek second term

“The toxicity of the debate. The physical and emotional tolls that it’s taking on all of us — those are serious issues,” the mayor told Kara Swisher on the New York Times’ “Sway” podcast.

Lori Lightfoot on election night in April 2019.
Lori Lightfoot was celebrating in April 2019 after defeating Toni Preckwinkle in the Chicago mayoral runoff. But she says she hasn’t decided if she will run again.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday it’s “not a gimme” that she will seek re-election and cracked the door open to joining Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in saying one term is enough.

“If this was a different time and we had not been through — and [when] I say ‘we,’ I mean my wife and I, my family, but I also mean my team — it would be an easier question to answer. … It’s not a gimme. The toxicity of the debate. The physical and emotional tolls that it’s taking on all of us — those are serious issues,” the mayor told Kara Swisher on the New York Times’ “Sway” podcast.

“My wife and I and my daughter, my close friends and my team — we have to have serious conversations about why and what that would look like and what we believe that we would be able to accomplish and could we even get it done. This is a tough time for mayors all across the country.”

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced in December she would not seek re-election. Five months later, Bottoms in Atlanta did the same.

Lightfoot considers both women “very good friends” and said they are partners in the same national struggle.

“There’s a reason why there’s been a slew of people saying, ‘You know what? I’m good with one term,’” Lightfoot said.

“I’m very good friends with a lot of mayors who have to make this decision before I do who are feeling like they’re in a different place than they ever imagined they would be in. It’s a tough time to be mayor. I mean — I have a lot of people tell me, ‘Man, you’ve got the worst job in the country.’”

Having said that, Lightfoot argued just the opposite, perhaps just to keep ’em guessing.

“I think I’ve got the best job. It’s hard. It’s a lot harder because of all the unforeseen circumstances that we’ve been through over the last 16 months. But I wouldn’t trade any minute of it, because every day I find something where we’re helping people who haven’t been helped before and I live off of that all day long.”

Lightfoot has long been a proponent of term limits. She campaigned on a promise to serve only two terms.

Even if she already had decided whether to seek a second term, Lightfoot said she wouldn’t make it public yet. She insisted it’s still up in the air.

“Sixteen months into a global pandemic. A massive economic dislocation. Surging violence. It’s not a gimme,” the mayor told reporters Monday afternoon at an unrelated news conference.

Lightfoot noted she has raised over $2 million since taking office, roughly $500,000 of it over the last year.

“I believe in being prepared, but it’s a conversation that I need to have at the appropriate time with my wife,” she said.

“[With] all the things that are going on in our city [and] all the challenges that we are facing that residents have a right to demand my full attention on, my re-election is not a priority for me at this point. It will become something that we talk about as a family later on, but that’s not now.”

No matter how long she remains mayor, Lightfoot said she would continue to “push people out of their comfort zone,” regardless of how uncomfortable that makes people or how much her my-way-or-the-highway personality is criticized.

“A lot of people don’t think that’s women’s place. A lot of people don’t think it’s a person of color’s place . . . I get less push-back because of my sexual orientation. But roll it all up. I’m Black. I’m female. I’m a lesbian. And no one expected me to win,” Lightfoot said.

“Yeah, I’m tough. There’s no question about it. You don’t get to be a Black woman going to the places that I’ve been — whether it’s a federal prosecutor … [or] senior equity partner at one of the largest law firms in the world — by letting people walk all over you and not fighting for your place at the table. Does that make some people angry and upset? It does. But I’ m not gonna apologize for being an advocate for things that I think are really important in our city.”

Lightfoot has long attributed her tenuous relationship with the City Council to the fact that “I don’t buy votes.”

She has stuck to that position, she said on the podcast.

“Early on, after I was elected, a lot of people came to me trying to cut the same old kind of deals. The backroom stuff. And I’m like, ‘No, no, no. That’s not who I am.’ And they’re like, ‘Wait, you actually meant that, what you said on the campaign trail?’ And I’m like, ‘Yes, I did.’”