Lori Lightfoot, an out lesbian candidate for mayor in Chicago, has gained key endorsements from across the political spectrum and appears to have the edge in the home stretch of the race despite getting hit with a vicious last-minute wave of homophobic flyers distributed outside of churches.
Lightfoot, the former president of the Chicago Police Board, narrowly edged out the two closest vote-getters in a crowded election on February 26, but fell well short of the majority needed to avoid a runoff. She garnered slightly more than 97,000 votes, or 17.54 percent, while Cook County Board president Toni Preckwinkle trailed closely behind with 16.04 percent of the vote. President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, Bill Daley — whose father, Richard J. Daley, and brother, Richard M. Daley, previously served as mayors of Chicago — wasn’t too far behind in third place, as he notched 14.78 percent.
The 56-year-old Lightfoot is vying to become the first black woman and first openly LGBTQ person to be elected mayor of Chicago in the April 2 runoff, but her sexual orientation has become a hot topic in the final weeks. Misleading flyers about her LGBTQ positions were posted around the city in recent days — and they were written as if Lightfoot wrote the words herself.
“The GAY EQUALITY ACT!!! ITS [sic] OUR TURN,” the flyers stated, followed by a series of statements saying, “I promise to enforce the Gay Equality Act” and that all bathrooms will be “gender-free,” public schools will “teach Gay History by mandate,” and “All churches will abide by the gay marriage laws.”
The flyers also boasted in all capital letters that all contracts, jobs, and employment opportunities would be “newly assigned exclusively to gay people!”
According to the Sun-Times, the flyers were largely distributed around predominantly black churches on the city’s South Side, but also reached other areas. The Mount Vernon Baptist Church, located in on the far West Side, and the Salem Baptist Church, a South Side mega-church led by former State Senator James Meeks, were among the locations where the flyers were distributed on cars parked on nearby streets.
Lightfoot responded to the flyers by saying, “Hate has no place in Chicago,” and Preckwinkle took to Twitter to condemn “in the strongest possible terms any rhetoric or actions from any person or group that suggests prejudice or discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.”
It marked the second time this month that Lightfoot’s sexual orientation became an issue in the race. When Preckwinkle, who is also African-American, was asked during a March 7 debate what she admired about Lightfoot, she said, “That she’s open and honest about her LGBTQ orientation. I think it’s important in this country that we be respectful of differences and understand that all of us matter.”
Lightfoot later questioned whether Preckwinkle was employing dog whistle tactics in an attempt to damage Lightfoot’s chances in religious communities. Lightfoot noted that both candidates would have prepared for that very question and that the answer must have been thought out in advance, but Preckwinkle maintained that she did not anticipate it.
Preckwinkle strongly denied using dog whistles, calling any such allegation “ridiculous.”
“I’ve always been a strong supporter of the LBGTQ community,” she said.
Any homophobia that does exist in the race does not appear to be hampering Lightfoot’s candidacy. She has earned the backing of a variety of progressive organizations, from Our Revolution Illinois to the Latino Victory Council Fund, as well as more than a dozen unions.
She is also armed with the endorsements from both the left-leaning Chicago Sun-Times and the more conservative Chicago Tribune, capping off a growing number of nods Lightfoot has received in the campaign’s final weeks.