CHICAGO — Mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot won the endorsement of Firefighters Local 2 and Northwest Side former firefighters Alds. Anthony Napolitano (41st) and Nicholas Sposato (38th) Thursday morning, potentially boosting her campaign on the vote-rich Northwest Side.
However, Toni Preckwinkle blasted Lightfoot during the first debate of the runoff for appearing with them at a Friday morning news conference, calling both aldermen as anti-immigrant and “Trump supporters.”
Lightfoot’s campaign said she had been a “relentless fighter for progressive causes her whole life, and that won’t change as mayor,” and that her immigration policy calls for an expansion of the city’s sanctuary status.
Both Napolitano and Sposato voted against a proposal from Mayor Rahm Emanuel to use $1.3 million in city funds to defend undocumented Chicagoans from legal threats posed by the Trump administration and the creation of the city’s municipal identification card, which can be obtained by undocumented immigrants.
Meanwhile, Sposato said he was puzzled by Preckwinkle’s move to slam the endorsement, considering she asked him to endorse her.
As Napolitano held a Lightfoot campaign sign and Sposato balanced one on his wheelchair, Local 2 President Jim Tracy praised Lightfoot’s union roots, and said she supported hiring more firefighters, updating antiquated rigs and increasing the number of ambulances in the city.
“We all understand the roadblocks ahead when it comes to pension payments and higher property taxes, and Lori strikes a balance that can take care of the economic development downtown, and in turn, take care of some of the blighted communities such as Englewood and the West Side,” Tracy said.
Tracy said Preckwinkle is “a very nice woman and she’s done good things.”
Sposato and Napolitano’s endorsements are notable – both aldermen are City Council’s strongest supporters of police and firefighters and have previously criticized Lightfoot for the appearance that she’d leveraged her appointment to the city’s Police Board as a springboard to run against Emanuel.
After Preckwinkle criticized Lightfoot for appearing with Sposato, Sposato said Preckwinkle called him this weekend to ask for his endorsement. The alderman said he told her he would support whomever Local 2 endorsed.
Sposato said he was disappointed by Preckwinkle’s criticism.
“It’s a desperate act on her behalf to defer from a positive endorsement from Local 2,” Sposato said. “This is what liberals do, just try to twist stuff around.”
In June, Sposato assured The Daily Line he would not be supporting Lightfoot, saying, “You think it’s okay we appoint somebody to something and they use that position to beat up the mayor and aldermen or something like that for months and say, ‘Now I’m going to run.’?”
On Thursday, he said the endorsement “really wasn’t my decision, it was Local 2’s decision. She impressed the heck out of them. I’m 100 percent behind my union, I am who I am because of my union. I was torn between just staying out of it, then I’m like, you know what, can I turn my union down?”
Napolitano was more enthusiastic.
“I think she’s an absolute firecracker,” he said, adding he appreciated Lightfoot’s promise to honor pension obligations. “I’m a Local 2 firefighter, it’s in my blood. That’s what the brotherhood, sisterhood decided was best for the city.”
“I like that it’s not the same old stuff for the city of Chicago, it’s something new. I’m excited about it.”
Sposato and Napolitano co-sponsored an ordinance shortly after Lightfoot announced her run saying mayoral appointees subject to City Council approval should pledge in writing not to run for a city office for two years after their appointment ends. Both said they have no regrets authoring the measure.
“Nothing changed, hell yeah, I still believe in that,” Napolitano said. “Ultimately she was allowed to do so, now it’s strictly let’s pick the best person for the job… I’d never walk away from that or say I don’t believe in it, but unfortunately she was allowed to do it, fortunately she’s the best candidate right now.”
Sposato agreed with Napolitano.
“People change. I guess I’m a flip flopper, I forgive and forget. I move forward. I still think it was the wrong thing to do but I’m not gonna dwell on that or harp on it,” Sposato said.
Napolitano and Sposato said officers they talked to did not necessarily view Lightfoot — the former president of the Police Board and head of the Police Accountability Task Force — as anti-police.
“Personally, coppers I’ve spoke to think that she’s a hell of a lot more pro-police than her opponent,” Napolitano said. “Personally, all the coppers I talk to don’t look at her as anti-police, just as a — she was a legal official put in a position and her job was to make sure police were doing their job… Like someone going to work for [the Internal Affairs Division]… their job is to investigate, make sure people are doing their job the right way. Are they always looked up on the greatest light? No. But that was her job to do that, that’s the job she took, she’s got an incredible legal background before that job.”
Sposato said officers he speaks with tell him “they feel she’s the better choice of the two. I don’t think there was a single candidate that cops were like jumping for joy about, you know? They liked [Jerry] Joyce a lot and I’m telling you right now, they liked Willie [Wilson], because he’s an average guy like they are. He’s self made, he doesn’t owe anybody.”
Wilson is slated to endorse a mayoral candidate on Friday.
The fact that “cops and firemen don’t like politicians” plays in Lightfoot’s favor, as this would be her first elected office, Sposato said.
“One thing I know is the Northwest Side is a mayor-maker,” Napolitano said. “Between the 41st, 45th and 38th wards, we have some of the largest amount of votes,” he said, including nearly 10,000 in Sposato’s ward, where he ran unopposed. “There are a lot of votes up here and we’re no longer the forgotten 41st, the forgotten Northwest Side and I’m glad we’re going to have a say in supporting a mayor who is going to do well for the city and city workers.”
More than 17,540 Chicagoans cast ballots in the 41st ward (the 3rd most of any ward), roughly 14,500 voted in the 45th ward (5th place), more than 13,000 in the 39th and 10,700 in the 38th.
The endorsement came the same day as Lightfoot released her first negative ad, “Why,”highlighting Toni Preckwinkle’s ties to Ald. Ed Burke (14th) and the unpopular sweetened beverage tax.
The Chicago Teachers Union hit back after Lightfoot received a $100,000 donation from John Canning, co-founder of Madison Dearborn Partners, who the union said “also solidly backed the political agendas of Rahm Emanuel, Bruce Rauner and both former mayor Richard M. Daley and his brother, banker Bill Daley, who lost his bid to replace Emanuel.”