Chicago, February 27: Chicago is poised to elect its first black female mayor, after first-round voters narrowed a wide field of candidates vying to address rampant gun violence and other vexing problems in America's third largest city. Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle received the highest share of the votes in Tuesday's election - 17.5 per cent and 16 per cent, respectively - to advance from a wide field of 14 candidates and compete in an April run-off. Since 1837, Chicago has chosen only one other black mayor and one other female mayor.
If Lightfoot wins, she would also become the city's first openly-gay mayor. "It's true that (it's) not every day that a little black girl in a low-income family from a segregated steel town makes the run-off to be the next mayor of the third-largest city in the country," Lightfoot told supporters Tuesday night. Lightfoot, who has never before held elected office, is a former federal prosecutor who headed a panel investigating the city's policing problems. Preckwinkle is currently the chief executive of Cook County in which Chicago is located.
"I know how gratifying it is when our efforts bend the arc of history a little closer to justice day by day," Preckwinkle said Tuesday night. Analysts said the election results suggested voters were looking to shake up city hall with new leadership. Voters had left little doubt they want the eventual victor to tackle the disparity in living conditions among the sprawling city's diverse communities. "The top issues are who's going to take care of the entire city," Lateef Moody told AFP after voting Tuesday.
Some areas, such as the tourist-magnet downtown business district, are prosperous, while many predominantly African American neighborhoods struggle with economic decay and alarming levels of gun violence. "We're seeing wealthier, college graduates move to the city for jobs. And, we're seeing people leave the South and West sides - which in many cases are predominantly African American," Laurence Msall, head of Chicago watchdog group The Civic Federation, told AFP before the results were in.
More than 550 people were killed in Chicago last year -- a higher number than the combined total in America's two most populous cities, Los Angeles and New York. No candidate generated the more than 50 percent of the vote necessary to win outright. Among the candidates voters rejected was Bill Daley, a member of a political dynasty that ruled the city for a combined 43 years, and former police chief Garry McCarthy who was fired after an incendiary police shooting case in which 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was killed.