During appearances on Saturday on the South and West sides, Mayor Lori Lightfoot urged Black residents to support her reelection campaign or risk losing the seat and advised those who don’t support her not to vote in a striking illustration of the city’s racial politics.
Lightfoot’s campaign reversed its previous position in a statement released Sunday night in response to a swift social media backlash, saying that she “urges every Chicagoan to exercise their rights and get out to vote.”
Lightfoot’s advice to Black voters not to support rival candidates earlier in the day set off the controversy.
Lightfoot referred to the only Latino and white rivals in the race as “Chuy” Garcia and “Paul Vallas,” saying that any vote from the South Side for anyone who is not Lightfoot is a vote for them.
Stay at home if you want them to decide your fate. then abstain from voting. But we need to improve.
Lightfoot is running for re-election on February 28 and will face eight opponents. It has been a talking point for the mayor and her allies who are concerned about splintering the vote that six of her opponents are Black.
The mayor once again claimed that the “destiny” of Black Chicago is on the line during his statements, which were made at a rally that regularly drew on the historical underinvestment that South Side areas have experienced.
The remarks also coincide with early voting, particularly by mail, greatly surpassing turnout in recent municipal elections. Earlier, voting officials expressed their continued optimism that voter turnout will approach 40% of registered voters for the first time since 2011. Some of the hotspots for early voting with a little over a week left were in the Northwest and Southwest sections, which are strongholds for Vallas and possibly Garcia.
Lightfoot invoked religious themes and cited Bible verses inside the well-lit New Life Covenant Church Southeast, located at 7621 S. Greenwood Ave. in the Grand Crossing neighborhood, on Saturday morning.
He then related how the City Council supported Eugene Sawyer as Mayor Harold Washington’s replacement before “dropping him like a hot potato bad habit” and ceding control back to the white Democratic establishment, a version of history that has been disputed by other Black candidates and historians.
Lightfoot said, “We need the South Side to come like a mighty roar to the polls. “We don’t have to spend 30 years like the Israelites wandering the desert. If you don’t cast your vote, we won’t reach the promised land right now, right here.
Former U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, who backed her opponent in 2019 and declared at a rally that if she were elected mayor, more Black people would die at the hands of police, joined Lightfoot. Rush, however, is supporting Lightfoot this time and working to help her gain support from Black voters as she tries to reshape her political base.
Lightfoot won the first round of the 2019 mayoral election with roughly 18% of the vote, defeating a historic 14-candidate field. A large portion of it came from white North Side residents who lived on the lakefront and supported her over more seasoned politicians.
Now that many of those voters are unhappy with Lightfoot, she has been working hard to win the Black community’s support.
Recently, Lightfoot has made a number of remarks urging the Black community to unite behind her campaign or risk losing City Hall. Lightfoot recently joined a group of ministers who denounced other Black candidates for running and possibly dividing support from the South and West sections of the city.
Rush led the crowd in chanting “keep the seat” and “down with the want tobes and up with Lori” while making the same point at the rally on Saturday.
Lightfoot has previously criticized the highly segregated history and racially divisive politics of Chicago.
Former CPS CEO Vallas, who has drawn criticism for his affiliation with the Fraternal Order of Police, recently said to a crowd on the Southwest Side that his campaign is “about taking back our city,” which some may interpret as a dog whistle.
Garcia said, “This is disqualifying rhetoric for anyone hoping to lead a multiracial and multiethnic city like Chicago.” We require harmony, not divisiveness.
The campaign of Chicago County Commissioner Brandon Johnson also reacted.
The campaign tweeted, “We can do better than this, y’all.” “Chicago can do so much better just on principle.”
In a statement, activist Ja’Mal Green denounced Lightfoot’s comments as “an insult to the democratic process, where each person’s opinion is heard at the polls.”
Businessman Willie Wilson, a different candidate for mayor, also blasted Lightfoot for remarks he claimed were “race-baiting.”
“Mayor Lightfoot’s remarks are irrational, polarising, risky, and disappointing,” you say. Wilson stated in a press release. We need a mayor in our community who does not exploit race as a wedge issue.
Later, as the mayor sat in the front row and watched, more Lightfoot campaign proxies appealed to the crowd at a rally in the afternoon at a community hall in West Garfield Park not to split the Black vote.
Municipal treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin bragged about how no one of the several white candidates in 2019 made it to the second round. She continued by stating that there are just seven Black candidates on the ballot this time around.
Conyears-Ervin declared, “You don’t have to be the treasurer to add up these sums. “We should unite behind one candidate,” the speaker said.
And Congressman Danny Davis said he had never seen hens follow a turtle as a metaphor for harnessing the influence of the Black vote.