CHICAGO (CBS) — Blasting what she called Rahm Emanuel’s “us versus them” leadership style, former Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot kicked off her campaign for mayor Thursday, promising to chart a “progressive course” for the city.
Lightfoot becomes the ninth challenger lined up to take Emanuel’s job. Billing herself as a progressive candidate, Lightfoot promised a radical change in governing style from Emanuel.
“I am here to talk to Chicagoans about a new progressive course for our city; one in which equity and inclusion are our North Stars,” she said.
“All over Chicago, people feel the effects of the us versus them style of governance,” she added. “That mentality and style of governance ends the day that I am sworn in as mayor.”
As examples of her progressive agenda, Lightfoot said she supports an elected school board, and a graduated income tax at the state level.
“By almost every measure we are currently headed in the wrong direction,” she said, criticizing the Emanuel administration for a revolving door in leadership at the Chicago Public Schools. Lightfoot noted CPS has had five CEOs in seven years under Emanuel; including Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges for a $2.3 million kickback scheme at CPS.
A trial lawyer and partner at the prestigious Mayer Brown law firm, Lightfoot is a former federal prosecutor who served in two pivotal roles in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s efforts to reform the Chicago Police Department in the wake of the videotaped shooting death of Laquan McDonald by Officer Jason Van Dyke.
In those roles, she has been a frequent critic of the mayor’s policies.
Lightfoot led the mayor’s Police Accountability Task Force, which issued a scathing report on the department, finding systemic racism protected by a code of silence within the department.
She also was tapped to head the Chicago Police Board, which oversees disciplinary actions taken against officers accused of misconduct, and has frequently criticized Emanuel’s handling of the police department, and the McDonald scandal in particular.
Lightfoot denied using her appointment to the Police Board from Emanuel as a springboard for her campaign for mayor.
“The mayor didn’t give me anything,” she said. “I didn’t get here because anyone gave me anything.”
She also said the city needs to improve its finances, and said she would focus on cutting fat from the budget before discussing any new revenue streams or tax hikes. She said she would hire a risk management advisor to oversee the city’s tax revenue.
Lightfoot said she wants tech giant Amazon to bring its second headquarters to Chicago, but blasted the Emanuel administration for a lack of transparency in its bid. She said taxpayers first should know what incentives the city is offering to lure Amazon.
If elected, Lightfoot would be the first African American woman, and the first openly gay person, to serve as mayor in Chicago history.
Former lieutenant governor candidate Ra Joy introduced Lightfoot at her announcement. He had been Chris Kennedy’s running mate in the Democratic primary, and was weighing a possible bid for mayor of his own.
Eight other challengers have announced bids against Emanuel, including former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, former Chicago Public Schools principal Troy LaRaviere, former CPS Chief Executive Officer Paul Vallas, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, millionaire businessman Willie Wilson, tech entrepreneur Neal Sales-Griffin, Black Lives Matter activist Ja’Mal Green, and former aldermanic candidate John Kozlar.