Visit The TRiiBE Election Center to learn more about the 2023 Chicago municipal election. Click here to find your ward, precinct and police district.

On an unseasonably warm February evening, about 100 people gathered for Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s election night party at the Mid-America Carpenters Council’s headquarters in River North.

The overall vibes were a mix of hope and angst. Pop songs such as “24K Magic” by Bruno Mars blared from the speakers. A few partygoers swayed slightly to the music, weaving throughout the room. Many munched hors d’oeuvres and partook in the cocktail bar, seeming subdued as they anxiously awaited election night results. Word on the street, according to Tribune reporter Christy Gutowski’s tweet, was that Lightfoot would take the stage to Lizzo’s “About Damn Time”  later in the evening.

After the polls closed at 7:00 p.m., several precincts’ results came in from the Chicago Board of Election, revealing that Lightfoot was trailing Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas. 

“I’m nervous, but I’m confident she’ll pull through tonight,” Macole Moody, Lightfoot’s niece, told The TRiiBE a little after 7:30 p.m. “She just needs another term to prove what she will do for Chicago for the next four years. It’s a tough city to live in and to be the mayor of.” 

Former Illinois Congressman Bobby Rush echoed Moody’s sentiments. “The results are not in. I’m very optimistic that Mayor Lightfoot is going to be in the run-off,” he said.

But as more precincts reported results, it became apparent that Lightfoot was all but guaranteed to not be granted a second term by voters. Vallas and Johnson’s leads held firm throughout the evening.

Voter turnout was the highest in two white-majority wards that are home to many police and city workers: the 41st Ward on the North Side, which includes Edison Park, Norwood Park and Sauganash; and the 19th Ward on the South Side, includes Beverly, Morgan Park and Mount Greenwood. 

According to the most recent data from the Chicago Board of Elections, Vallas received 72 percent (12,134 votes) in the 41st Ward and just over 60 percent (13,517 votes) in the 19th Ward. 

In all of the city’s Black wards, which are on the South and West sides, Lightfoot performed better than the seven other Black mayoral candidates. For example, Lightfoot won the 20th Ward with 1,832 votes, Johnson came in second with 1,386 votes, and Wilson in third place with 1,266 votes. And in the 37th Ward, Lightfoot received 2,977 votes over Johnson’s 1,134 votes and Wilson’s 1,573 votes. 

With 98 percent of precincts reporting citywide, Lightfoot came in third place with 17 percent, making her the first popularly elected mayor to lose reelection since first-term incumbent Jane Byrne lost to Harold Washington forty years ago. Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, who had 33 percent of the vote, and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, who had 20 percent, will face off in the April 4 runoff. 

That Vallas, who was endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, was successful in preying on voters’ fears about crime and safety through his conservative, right-leaning campaign and tough-on-crime rhetoric shows that the city may be moving on from America’s racial reckoning post-George Floyd. But Johnson, who has run on a progressive platform and has the support of the social justice-oriented Chicago Teachers Union and United Working Families, wants to address the root causes of violence by prioritizing investments in communities. Chicago, long a Democratic stronghold, has careened back and forth from progressive coalition-building to racist backlashes before. Whether it will shift to the right or move further left on the April 4 run-off remains to be seen.


MAP CREDIT: Pat Sier and South Side Weekly

Around 8:45 p.m., Lightfoot entered the room hand-in-hand with first lady Amy Eshleman. She gave her concession speech to a crowd that remained supportive, clapping and chanting, “we love you” and “thank you.”

“I feel a lot of love in this room. I felt every step of the way on this journey,” Lightfoot told the crowd. “I called Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas to congratulate them on their victories in advancing to the run-off. We were fierce competitors these last few months, but I will be rooting and praying for our next mayor to deliver for the people in the city for years to come.” 

Four years ago, Lightfoot seemingly appeared out of nowhere amid a field of 14 mayoral challengers. A former prosecutor who previously was president of the Chicago Police board, Lightfoot positioned herself as a progressive who’d be independent from the machine. She got 17.5 percent of the vote in the first round—more than any other candidate—to make the runoff against Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, which she won with 73 percent, carrying all 50 wards. The election was historic: Lightfoot became Chicago’s first Black woman and openly gay mayor. 

During her concession speech, Lightfoot touted her accomplishments in office, including reducing homicides and removing guns from the streets, improving mental health services and access to housing. Lightfoot launched the Crisis Assistance Response and Engagement (CARE) pilot program in 2021 as an alternative to the proposed Treatment Not Trauma.  

There were fewer homicides in 2022 than before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to WTTW News. But 2022 was the third year in a row with nearly 700 murders, a figure not reached as frequently since the 1990s. As for taking guns off the streets, in 2021, Chicago Police Department (CPD) Supt. David Brown said the department had recovered more than 12,000 illegal guns in 2021. (A WGN News investigation found that the department recovered less than what Brown claimed.)

Lightfoot also spoke passionately about her hopes for the future of the city, 

“I’m extraordinarily proud that we made investments in communities that have been neglected for decades,” she said. “We put over $2.2 billion into communities in our neighborhoods. That commitment simply must continue. I’m proud of the fact that we’ll deliver on the city’s largest-ever investments in affordable housing.”

Lightfoot’s signature project, Invest South/West, which aims to pour resources into 12 commercial corridors within 10 South and West side neighborhoods, includes $2.2 billion in public and private investments. It also included a number of projects that predated her administration, a Tribune investigation found. 

Throughout her four-year administration Lightfoot was at odds with grassroots organizers, unions, police and the business community. Among her campaign promises, for example, was a commitment to stopping the construction of a multimillion-dollar cop academy in its tracks. However, she changed course once in office, increasing the cop academy funding from $98 million to $128 million. She celebrated its ribbon-cutting on Jan. 25 alongside Ald. Emma Mitts (37th Ward) and Supt. Brown.

Under Lightfoot’s administration, for the year 2023, funding for CPD increased to $1.94 billion, up from $1.88 billion in 2022

In January 2023, Lightfoot told The TRiiBE that “people in neighborhoods historically plagued by violence do not want to cut back on police funding. There’s no appetite for defunding. They tell us all the time, we want more police . . . . Now, it’s not just about throwing bodies at the problem. We’ve got to make sure that they’re well trained, that they understand and respect the constitutional policing practices, that they understand and respect the community.”

After speaking for about ten minutes, Lightfoot exchanged hugs and well wishes with attendees. 

Some Black voters that The TRiiBE spoke with Tuesday at polling places and Lightfoot’s election party said they voted for her because they felt she deserved a second chance. 

“She has been working on trying to get the city together. I want to give her another chance to complete her job,” said Linda Peters. Peters is a longtime resident of the 21st Ward, a majority-Black South Side ward that Lightfoot won. 

After the speech, Zoie Reams, told The TRiiBE  her family’s South Side-based Brown Sugar Bakery flourished under Lightfoot’s administration. The bakery is across the street from the historic Lem’s Bar-B-Q in the restaurant district along 75th Street between Indiana and Calumet Avenues.

“No one has understood, no one has showed up in person, the way that Lori has for us—not just the bakery, but the community of 75th Street, the community of Chatham. It’s definitely hard to forsee someone else doing what Lori did for us,” Reams said.


She added that after the 2020 uprisings, Lightfoot came to personally check in with them and asked if they needed anything. She added that many people didn’t realize the uprisings’ impact on small businesses.

Under Lightfoot’s administration, 75th Street received a boardwalk that provided outside seating for customers getting food from restaurants along 75th Street.  

“To have tables outside and a neighborhood where people would never think to sit outside like they do on the North Side on Rush Street. We got to do that because of Lori Lightfoot,” Reams said. 

Ald. Walter Burnett (27th Ward), a longtime ally of Lightfoot, hugged Lightfoot after her speech. 

Following the embrace, Burnett told The TRiiBE that Lightfoot thanked him. He said that he is concerned about whether or not the projects that Lightfoot started will continue under a new administration.

“There were a lot of projects that started that were in Black neighborhoods, urban areas, that didn’t have any attention,” he said, referring to the Invest South/West initiative. He also expressed concern about the Chicago casino which will be housed in his ward. 

He hopes that the new mayor continues projects like Invest South/West. 

Burnett also shared some advice for the new mayor that seemed to look back on the past four years. “You gotta make your enemies your friends,” he said. “Don’t make your friends your enemies.”

is a multimedia reporter for The TRiiBE.