One day after launching re-election bid, Lightfoot hits the campaign trail
“When I got into office, the people who were used to having their way, who were used to dominating our city — they wanted their city back and they’ve been fighting against us every single day,” the mayor told the breakfast crowd at Starlight Restaurant, 8300 S. Kedzie Ave.
One day after launching her battle for a second term, Mayor Lori Lightfoot hit the campaign trail on Wednesday with a promise to retain Chicago Police Supt. David Brown and keep on fighting against powerful forces who “want their city back.”
“You know what this fight is about. When I got into office, the people who were used to having their way — who were used to dominating our city — they wanted their city back and they’ve been fighting against us every single day,” Lightfoot told the breakfast crowd at Starlight Restaurant, 8300 S. Kedzie Ave. in Ashburn.
“We did not let them take the city back then and we’re not gonna let them take it back now. We need to continue to lean into equity and inclusion. … We’ve got to make sure that residents and neighbors south of Roosevelt Road and west of Ashland get their due.”
During the second of five campaign stops — at Brown Sugar Bakery, 328 E. 75th Street in Greater Grand Crossing — Lightfoot responded to the universal demand from all five of her opponents that Brown be fired for failing to rein in the unrelenting gang violence plaguing Chicago.
“David Brown has my full, thousand-percent faith and here’s why: He is an experienced national leader in law enforcement. … What he has done is made sure that our policing strategy is centered on building better relationships with the community. That’s critically important, because if the police aren’t viewed with legitimacy in the eyes of the people that they serve, they will never be able to be successful,” the mayor said.
Lightfoot acknowledged “crime is the issue” foremost on the minds of Chicago voters. But she argued yet again that Brown is making progress on that front even though it’s “cold comfort” to people who don’t “feel safe.”
Shootings and homicides are down incrementally, particularly in 15 targeted South and West Side neighborhoods under siege from gang violence, she said.
“We’re one of the few big cities in the country that has actually seen a decline in homicides, in shootings. So I’m gonna abandon ship in the middle of what we are doing? Absolutely not. David Brown is the right leader for this police department in this moment and he’s got my full support,” the mayor said.
Lightfoot has resisted repeated demands to pull the plug on Brown — even from her own deputy floor leader in the City Council — and for good reason.
She had her sights set on the retired Dallas police chief from the moment she fired Eddie Johnson for “lying to me and lying to the public” about the circumstances surrounding a drinking and driving incident in October 2019 that left him slumped over the wheel of his police SUV near his Bridgeport home.
A former Chicago Police Board member whose recommendations were ignored by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Lightfoot said the selection process “only has legitimacy if you follow it.”
But she ignored her own advice and chose Brown one day after the Police Board made public its list of three finalists and made certain that the other two finalists had nowhere near Brown’s experience so the choice would appear obvious.
Throughout the frenzied first day of campaigning, Lightfoot struck familiar themes she hopes will earn the support she needs among African American voters — even with at least four Black candidates in the race — to overcome the loss of lakefront voters who backed her strongly support in 2019, but have grown disappointed with her record on reform and transparency.
At Starlight Restaurant, she argued “too many neighborhoods on the South and West sides” had “not seen a dime of economic development” before she took office. She has since launched her signature Invest South/West initiative to rebuild 10 neighborhood commercial corridors, pooling $750 million from the city and other agencies of local government and using that seed money to attract private investment.
“We have turned that around in these three years and we need to keep fighting to make sure that neighborhoods like this one and all across the South and the West Side continue to get their due,” she said.
“That doesn’t mean we’re ignoring the downtown or the North Side. But we are continuing to see the whole city — not just part of it. We cannot be a great global city if we starve our neighborhoods,” she said.
“Our kids have to have hope. They have to have opportunity. They have to have good jobs, decent education. We’ve got to invest in them. … We can’t turn back the clock because, if we do, we’re turning our back on people in too many neighborhoods.”
Lightfoot also highlighted her tough-as-nails leadership during pandemic. The stay-at-home orders that closed lakefront trails, beaches and playgrounds and shuttered restaurants and bars for months before limiting their capacity inspired a hysterical string of Lightfoot memes that the mayor was smart enough to embrace.
The mayor also mentioned the hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans and grants that the city doled out during the pandemic — including $10,000 to Starlight Restaurant — that helped small businesses stay afloat.
“We have delivered in making sure that you were safe during the pandemic. … Sometimes we had to tell you things that you may not have wanted to hear. But we told you the truth. We leaned into the science. And we made sure that we were doing everything that we could to protect residents all over this city,” Lightfoot said.
“I am proud of the lives we were able to save because we brought life-saving, free vaccine to every corner of this city and, as a consequence, we are one of the most heavily vaccinated cities in the United States.”
Lightfoot was flanked by two of her closest City Council allies — floor leader and Rules Committee Chair Michelle Harris (8th) and Ald. Derrick Curtis (18th).
“The road isn’t gonna be easy. But nothing good and worthwhile is. I need you to be on that ride with me,” the mayor said.
“Folks, this is just the beginning of the journey. We’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got the summer. We’ve got petitions. We’ve got to get out in every neighborhood. I need all of you to be the chorus of people saying, ‘I’m riding with Lori.’ There are gonna be naysayers, but that’s alright. We know who they are. We’re gonna keep on moving forward.”
The campaign blitz continued throughout the day with additional stops — in Little Village, Garfield Park and Northalsted. In Garfield Park, the mayor was endorsed by three members of her leadership team: Walter Burnett Jr. (27th), Jason Ervin (28th) and Emma Mitts (37th).
“I do not feel like it’s an uphill fight. The fact of the matter is, I’m a Black woman in America. People are betting against us every single day. We know we don’t have it easy. We know we’re viewed by a different lens. But, that doesn’t mean we’re not ready for the fight,” the mayor said.
“We are battle-tested. We are ready. I am excited about telling people all across this city the things that we’ve accomplished over these last three years for them. No one else has a record of accomplishment—particularly not through this kind of challenges unprecedented that we’ve had. ... Haters are gonna hate. But we’re gonna be there.”