Lori Lightfoot was portrayed Friday as a “wealthy corporate lawyer who’s defended the elites in this country” only to “recast” herself as a police reformer when the record shows otherwise.
Toni Preckwinkle came out swinging against her opponent in the April 2 runoff three days after Lightfoot seemingly came out of nowhere to finish first in the field of 14 mayoral candidates.
“She’s . . . a wealthy corporate lawyer who’s defended the elites in this country. . . . She spent her time defending big corporations and Wall Street banks,” Preckwinkle told the Chicago Sun-Times.
“There’s a quite different career path for somebody who’s chosen public service for their entire career and somebody who’s chosen to be part of a big law firm that defends the elites in this country.”
Pressed to define “elites,” Preckwinkle said, “Wall Street banks and corporate clients. She’s defended corporate clients against discrimination suits. There hasn’t been a lot of attention to her record over the last six months. There will be more attention in the runoff.”
With high negatives and residual anger about the now-repealed sweetened beverage tax, Preckwinkle’s path to victory is to demonize Lightfoot.
The county board president teased that strategy on election night, when she talked about Lightfoot’s dearth of executive experience and about the “multiple appointments” she had accepted under two mayors: Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel.
On Friday, Preckwinkle intensified that line of attack and released a new attack ad aimed at driving up Lightfoot’s negatives. She also added Teamsters Local 700 to her collection of union endorsements.
“She accepted appointments from both Mayor Daley and Mayor Emanuel. The only positions she’s held in government are appointive positions while I’ve stood before the electorate, what, 11 times. Those are quite different records,” Preckwinkle said.
“If you choose to be an appointed person from the mayor or whoever, then you’re part of their administration and you have to wear that.”
Should Lightfoot have declined when, for example, Daley asked her and Mary Dempsey to take over the Department of Procurement Services after James Duff pleaded guilty to engineering a massive fraud that deprived legitimate minority businesses of $100 million in contracts?
“There were people who did,” Preckwinkle said, refusing to name them.
“There’s a difference between trying to work with people who have different views than you do and accepting an appointment from them.”
Lightfoot co-chaired the Mayor’s Task Force on Police Accountability whose scathing indictment of the Chicago Police Department laid the groundwork for the U.S. Justice Department to do the same after the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.
Earlier this week, Lightfoot told the Sun-Times she is “very proud of what we were able to accomplish” while leading the Office of Professional Standards under Daley, now known as the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.
“It was a difficult circumstance, particularly being embedded within the Chicago Police Department. But I know we made significant progress on a number of fronts. Not the least of which was holding officers accountable when they lied — either by omission or commission,” Lightfoot said.
On Friday, Preckwinkle told a dramatically different story about Lightfoot’s record at OPS.
“There was very little effort to move forward a progressive agenda or to hold the police accountable — at least initially,” Preckwinkle said.
“There’s a change in the narrative on her part as to what actually happened as a result of her service. . . . It’s an effort to recast some of the past. . . . The question is, is that the entirety of her record — and I don’t think it is. . . . What will come out in the next few weeks is her record of service, particularly when it relates to police issues. And it’s not the narrative she has put forward with the public.”
After leaving the wide-ranging Sun-Times interview, Preckwinkle headed straight for the penthouse apartment of millionaire businessman Willie Wilson.
Wilson is playing kingmaker again — just as he tried and failed to do in 2015. Only this time, he’s playing a strong hand.He won 13 wards, including nearly all of the West and South sides, on Tuesday.
“We talked about [eliminating] the red-light cameras. . . . But she wouldn’t commit to that. . . . I asked about property taxes. She wouldn’t answer” whether she would freeze them, he said.
Wilson has a conservative, church-based constituency. The fact Lightfoot is a lesbian with a chance to become Chicago’s first openly gay mayor does not play well with those voters, he said.
“That’s a pretty hard sell. . . . But I’m talking about contracts and jobs and schools and things of that nature,” Wilson said.
“People have got religion. They believe in their religion — and so do I. But I have gays and lesbians in my workplace. And I go to church. It depends on how one looks at it.”
Wilson is urging his 50,000 supporters to go to his Facebook page and vote on which candidate they want him to support. He plans to announce his endorsement within 10 days.
Preckwinkle campaign spokesperson Ty Cratic noted that the county board president has been an “unwavering ally to the LGTBQ community” for 30 years and has promised policies aimed at making Chicago “a safe and inclusive place for everyone.”
“This campaign will disavow in the strongest possible terms any rhetoric from any person that suggests prejudice or discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community. There is no place in Chicago, or any society, for intolerance of our LGBTQ community,” Cratic said in a statement.