Prizm News / February 24, 2019 / By Bob Vitale

Lori Lightfoot and her wife, Amy Eshleman, march in the 2018 Chicago Pride parade. The Massillon native moved to Chicago in 1986. (Lightfoot campaign photos via Facebook)

Lori Lightfoot, who grew up in Massillon, is among the top candidates in Tuesday’s 14-candidate race.


By Bob Vitale

A 56-year-old lesbian who grew up in Ohio is running to become the first LGBTQ mayor of Chicago, and polls show she’s within striking distance of making an expected runoff in April. 

Voting ends Tuesday in Chicago, where 14 candidates are running to succeed Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who’s not seeking a new term. Lori Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor and former head of the Chicago police board, has been endorsed by LGBTQ organizations such as the Victory Fund, Equality Illinois and LPAC. 

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She also has been endorsed by the Chicago Sun-Times, which called her “a force for honesty and integrity” who has fought political corruption and police violence. During her time at its helm, the Police Board fired officers in 72 percent of the cases it heard.

A February poll found Lightfoot in fourth place with support from 10 percent of voters, behind Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle (14 percent), former U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley (13 percent) and Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza (12 percent). Nineteen percent of voters were undecided. 

If no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote on Tuesday, the top two finishers will face each other in a runoff election that ends April 2. 

Lightfoot has lived in Chicago since 1986, when she moved to the city to attend the University of Chicago Law School. She grew up in Massillon, a city of 32,000 just west of Canton, and graduated from Washington High School in 1980. She was the high school’s first black class president.

Lori Lightfoot would be the first LGBTQ person and the first black woman to serve as mayor of Chicago. (Lightfoot campaign photo via Facebook)

“I hope people look at my background and will recognize that when I talk about families that are struggling, I’m talking from the basis of personal experience,” Lightfoot told the Chicago Defender, an African-American newspaper, last June. “I’m the fourth of four kids. I’ve been in Chicago for almost 32 years, but I grew up in Ohio during the ’60s and ’70s in a small steel-town that was very segregated.” 

Her parents were born in the South and moved to Ohio with their families as teenagers, she has said. Her father was deaf and worked more than one job. Her mother also worked a series of low-wage jobs, she said. 

“My parents instilled in me a clear sense of right and wrong and that I had to be an advocate not only for myself, but for other people who didn’t have a voice,” Lightfoot told the Sun-Times in January. “And that is a sense of social justice, equity and inclusion that I bring to this mayor’s race.” 

Lightfoot and her wife, Amy Eshleman, are raising a daughter. 

Although the mayor’s race has focused on issues such as gun violence, education and police reform, Lightfoot has proposed naming mayoral liaisons to the LGBTQ community in various neighborhoods and demanding better treatment of transgender Chicagoans by the police. 

“Like anyone else, my identity and experiences have helped shape how I see the world,” she said in outlining her LGBTQ policies. “As an out and proud black lesbian, I understand the importance of safeguarding the civil rights of the LGBTQ+ community, and I recognize that while significant progress has been made, more important work must be done.”

Bob Vitale
A Toledo native and graduate of Toledo Public Schools, Bob has worked as a local government and politics reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, as a Washington correspondent for Thomson Newspapers and as editor-in-chief for Outlook Ohio. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science from Ball State University and a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.