Editor’s Be aware: David Axelrod, a CNN senior political commentator and host of “The Axe Information,” was a senior adviser to former President Barack Obama and chief strategist for the 2008 and 2012 Obama presidential campaigns. He was a Metropolis Corridor reporter for the Chicago Tribune and later was the media strategist for seven profitable Chicago mayoral campaigns. The opinions expressed on this commentary are his personal. View extra opinion on CNN.


4 years in the past, Lori Lightfoot captured virtually 74% of the vote en path to an historic election as Chicago’s mayor.

The first Black lady and first lesbian to steer the town, the previous prosecutor upended the political institution with guarantees to wash up a metropolis weary of corruption.

However, on Tuesday, Lightfoot’s reign got here to a screeching halt in a way as gorgeous and decisive because the landslide that swept her into workplace.

Lightfoot managed simply 17% of the vote in a nine-way basic election, failing to make the April 4 runoff that may now pit former college superintendent Paul Vallas towards County Commissioner Brandon Johnson.

“Clearly, we didn’t win the election at this time, however I stand right here with my head held excessive and a coronary heart filled with gratitude,” Lightfoot advised her supporters after the polls closed.

“You’ll not be outlined by the way you fall. You may be outlined by how arduous you’re employed and the way a lot you do for different individuals,” she added.

It was a cultured and dignified concession from a pugnacious mayor who usually appeared to favor the center finger over the center floor.

Lightfoot was good, fast and at all times spoiling for combat, defending the town towards its detractors – from former President Donald Trump to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas – and anybody else who unfairly caricatured her metropolis as an city dystopia.

She stood up for immigrants and labored to refocus sources to impoverished neighborhoods on the town’s south and west sides.

Confronted with an unprecedented public well being disaster inside her first yr in workplace, she usually gained first rate marks for her dealing with of it. However one aspect of that disaster – the scourge of rampant violence that spiked through the pandemic – contributed drastically to her repudiation on the polls on Tuesday.

Crime – a perennial subject that has bedeviled mayors for many years – is way and away the high concern of Chicago voters. And whereas she might declare some progress up to now yr over 2021, Lightfoot was extensively thought-about a failure on the crucial subject of public security.

Her handpicked police chief, David Brown, recruited from Dallas, appeared overmatched in a metropolis and a division usually impenetrable to outsiders. And Lightfoot’s unwillingness to dismiss her police chief, who usually appeared remoted from his officers and the neighborhood, left voters with little hope for change. (Brown introduced his resignation on Wednesday following Lightfoot’s election loss.)

However Lightfoot’s fall is a extra sophisticated story that goes to a clenched-fist, go-it-alone fashion of management that made consensus arduous to construct and drove many who ought to have been her allies away.

Reared within the industrial belt of Northeast Ohio, the daughter of a manufacturing facility employee and a well being care aide, Lightfoot fought her means as much as the College of Chicago Regulation Faculty and, finally, to the US legal professional’s workplace with a stint as president of the Chicago Police Board.

When she ran for mayor, her standing as a crusading outsider with prosecutorial zeal was core to her attraction.

However these pugilistic qualities shortly turned obstacles in a job that always requires a capability to persuade, and never merely command.

Early in her time period, Lightfoot stubbornly took a trainer’s strike many deemed avoidable, and then settled on the union’s phrases.

Deeply suspicious of the motives of different politicians, she systematically alienated Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the Democrat-led state legislature and the Prepare dinner County management, all of whom are fellow Democrats.

In consequence, she misplaced key legislative battles, together with a legislation that over the subsequent three years will shift management of the Chicago public faculties from mayoral appointees to an elected 21-member college board, far bigger than what she had needed and the biggest by far within the nation.

She ran on limiting the prerogatives of Metropolis Council members, then humiliated them in her inaugural speech and alienated them within the job, prompting certainly one of her once-allies Alderman Susan Sadlowski-Garza to say, “I’ve by no means met anyone who has managed to piss off each single particular person they arrive involved with. Police, hearth, lecturers, aldermen, companies, manufacturing.”

The exodus of some high-profile companies – and the probably, unthinkable departure to the suburbs of the town’s beloved Chicago Bears – contributed to a way of a metropolis backsliding.

By the point of the election, greater than half of Chicago voters gave the mayor adverse scores.

In profitable and shedding, Lightfoot did it her means. Now Chicago can have a brand new mayor – and a race that would be the most ideologically divergent in latest historical past.

Vallas, who’s White and endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, ran virtually completely on public security and the promise so as to add officers to combat crime. He completed with 34% of the vote, far forward of the sector, however properly in need of the 50% essential to win and not using a runoff.

Johnson, who’s Black, was comparatively unknown to a lot of the town earlier than being put forth by the Chicago Trainer’s Union, for whom he has labored as an organizer. As soon as a vocal supporter of defunding police, Johnson alone among the many main candidates has eschewed guarantees of extra cops.

It’s a stark selection and portends a pitched and divisive battle.

Fighter till the top, the mayor spent weeks of promoting, successfully hammering a fourth candidate she feared probably the most, US Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, solely to be edged out for a spot within the runoff by Johnson.

Now the reigning champion can be compelled to look at from the sidelines and ponder her meteoric rise and fall.

Lightfoot was elected as a loner – an outsider – and to a surprising diploma, she’s going to go away Metropolis Corridor the identical means.

An earlier model incompletely described the a part of Ohio by which Lori Lightfoot was raised.

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