Heavy Hitters Ran to Lightfoot: Big Donors and the Chicago Mayoral Runoff


Lori Lightfoot cruised to a commanding victory in the Chicago mayoral runoff on April 2, garnering a nearly 50 point lead over Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Her victory was fueled in part by deep-pocketed contributors who had backed other candidates in the Feb. 26 Chicago general election but threw their support to Lightfoot as the runoff approached.

Lightfoot, who earned just 1.5% more votes than Preckwinkle in a badly fractured general election field, enjoyed a dramatic acceleration in fundraising after Feb. 26. Lightfoot had only raised about $1.6 million by the general election date, but she went on to raise at least $3.8 million in the five short weeks until the runoff.

Part of that funding came from large trade unions like LiUNA ($500,000) and IBEW ($40,000), which had contributed to Susana Mendoza in the general election campaign. Lightfoot also secured new support from megadonors in the finance and real estate sectors, including $100,000 from Paul Finnegan and $100,000 from John Canning, both venture capitalists who were among Bill Daley’s top donors. In addition, Lightfoot received $100,000 each from Leslie Bluhm and Meredith Bluhm-Wolf, entrepreneur philanthropists and daughters of real estate and gaming magnate Neil Bluhm.

Below are notable top donors to general election candidates who shifted their support to the two frontrunners. 

Preckwinkle started the runoff period with nearly $4 million more than Lightfoot, but her fundraising pace slowed considerably following the general election, when she raised only $1.7 million to Lightfoot’s $3.8 million. Ultimately, Preckwinkle’s overall money edge wasn’t enough to overcome Lightfoot’s momentum – at the bank or at the polls.  


Alisa Kaplan, RFI Policy Director, at alisa@reformforillinois.org or 312-436-1274

Jamie Moore, moore.2242@gmail.com



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