LGBTQ+ Mayor of a Midwestern City visits DU…No, not that one

Posted: December 9, 2019 | By: Kiley Roach Tagged: Blog

Most headlines that center around queer mayors of Midwestern cities nowadays tend to be about Pete Buttigieg, a rising candidate for the Democratic nomination for president. That was not the case last week at Drake University. On Friday, December 6, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot ditched the third-largest city in the US to hold an event at Drake University, right in the heart of Des Moines, Iowa. She was accompanied by her staff and more security than the students at Drake are used to.

Mayor Lightfoot was welcomed to the stage by student leaders from the Coalition of Black Students and Rainbow Union. She introduced herself to the audience, talked about her career trajectory leading up to her election, and some of the challenges that she has faced since occupying the office. Her priorities this term, as she told the students in the room, are to fight corruption within the city of Chicago, improve public education, and combat inequality and wealth disparities in various wards of the city.

Lightfoot is the first-ever Chicago Mayor to win majorities in all 50 of the city’s wards. She beat her opponent in a landslide victory, collecting 73.7 percent of the total vote.  She is also the first LGBTQ+ woman of color to be elected to the office. Lightfoot, in many ways, represents the direction that the Democratic party appears to be moving towards one of diversity, equity, and progressive politics.

During the question and answer section of Friday’s event, Lightfoot answered a number of questions about holding leadership positions and getting involved in politics as a person with a marginalized identity. Many of the questions posed by the audience asked for advice, particularly guidance for young black, brown, and LGBTQ+ folks pursuing political careers. She was candid and encouraged the audience to be “their authentic selves” and to “rise above expectations” in every set of circumstances.

I was impressed by the Mayor’s words. She was clear-voiced and inspiring to the students in the room. I was a little disappointed, however, by the fact that she almost completely avoided the topic of the 2020 presidential primary.

Outlets like the FiveThirtyEight are closely tracking endorsements for presidential candidates. They track who party elites, like mayors of large cities, for example, are endorsing for the nomination, and then quantifying the value of these endorsements to determine which candidate is “winning” endorsements this cycle. Lightfoot, like many other party elites, has not yet endorsed a candidate for President. With her political pedigree, I’ll be watching out for Lightfoot’s potential 2020 endorsement, and you should too.