After receiving a second term vote on Monday afternoon, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot blasted her challenger Paul Vallas for using the phrase “taking our city back” in his campaign speeches, calling it “the ultimate dog whistle.”
Lightfoot said “He’s saying in certain audiences that we have to take our city back. What does that mean?”
The mayor referred to Black Democrat Harold Washington’s 1983 campaign against white Republican Bernie Epton, whose catchphrase was “Before it’s too late.”
“We don’t need that in our city,” Lightfoot said. “And ‘take our city back’ meaning what? To what time? And take our city back from whom?”
Meanwhile, Vallas’s commented last week at a campaign appearance in Garfield Ridge, saying: “This whole campaign is about taking back our city, pure and simple.”
Invoking that theme again throughout his speech, Vallas received applause from the audience. Along with running an anti-Lightfoot campaign, Vallas also frequently attacked State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.
At one point at the rally, Vallas told the audience, “My favorite quote is help me help you. Help me help you. Because that is what it is about. It’s us together taking back this city, and not doing it in five years, or 10 years or 15 years. Doing it now.”
Eventually, Vallas came back to the line to remind them that Foxx had already won two elections and to implore them not to do the same with Lightfoot.
“Taking back our city begins at the ballot box,” Vallas said. “Help me help you do that.”
His campaign has denied any racial motivation for his comments and released a statement Monday evening: “Four years of failure are catching up to Mayor Lightfoot and she’s desperately lashing out in every direction to cling to a spot in the runoff, even going as far as to suppress the vote if it helps her politically. Paul Vallas is a lifelong, pro-choice Democrat and champion for LGBT rights running to put crime reduction and public safety first. He’s not going to let Mayor Lightfoot or anyone else distract him from that message.”
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Comments by Lightfoot Monday come after the mayor’s weekend rallies, during which she made her own divisive remarks about voting and race while mobilising Black people against the white and Latino candidates.
“Any vote coming from the South Side for somebody not named Lightfoot is a vote for ‘Chuy’ Garcia or Paul Vallas,” Lightfoot said, naming the only Latino and white challengers in the race.
“If you want them controlling your destiny, then stay home. Then don’t vote. But we’ve got to do better.”
The mayor once again stated that the “destiny” of Black Chicago is up for election during the event, which regularly referenced the past underinvestment that South Side areas have experienced.