CHICAGO - Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is accused of damaging the democratic process and encouraging voter suppression after suggesting that South Side voters who don’t vote for her reelection shouldn’t vote in the race at all.
On the campaign stop in Grand Crossing over the weekend, Lightfoot said any South Side vote for "somebody not named Lightfoot is a vote for Chuy Garcia or Paul Vallas."
"If you want them controlling your fate and your destiny, then stay home," she continued. "Then don’t vote."
Calling out U.S. Rep. Jesus "Chuy" Garcia and former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas by name, Lightfoot identified the two other frontrunners in this year’s mayoral race and her only Hispanic and white challengers. Lightfoot was speaking in a predominantly Black neighborhood before a group of mostly Black voters.
After casting her vote Monday at Northeastern Illinois University, Lightfoot told reporters that she hadn’t meant to imply that people should not participate in elections.
"If I said anything other than everybody everywhere needs to vote then I misspoke in the heat of a campaign rally," she said. "But I’ve been very consistent all along saying everybody everywhere needs to step up, and they need to vote just as I said today."
Many of Lightfoot’s opponents were vocal about their opposition to the comments, calling her suggestion "disqualifying" and "dangerous."
"This is disqualifying rhetoric for anyone hoping to lead a Chicago that is a multi-racial and multi-ethnic city," Garcia said.
Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, another candidate seeking to oust Lightfoot, said, "Chicagoans deserve real leadership" and are ready to "turn the page" with a new mayor.
"Lori Lightfoot telling residents not to vote unless they vote for her shows that she cares more about maintaining power for herself than empowering communities or getting things done for the people of our city," he said.
Lightfoot challenger philanthropist Willie Wilson called the remarks "delusional, divisive, dangerous and disappointing."
Another opponent, activist Ja’Mal Green, said in a tweet that Lightfoot’s "desperation was showing."
"I just showed this to a bus load of new voters & the video made them more motivated than ever to vote against Lightfoot today," the tweet read.
Last election cycle, Lightfoot was on the receiving end of similar remarks from then-U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, who supported Lightfoot’s opponent Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
"Everyone who votes for Lori, the blood of the next young Black man or Black woman who is killed by the police is on your hands," Rush said in 2019.