Chicago mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot received an important endorsement Friday — from recent mayoral hopeful Willie Wilson.
At an afternoon gathering at the Chicago Baptist Institute in Washington Park on the city’s South Side, Wilson and Lightfoot joined dozens of religious and community leaders for the big reveal.
“The problem with Chicago … is corruption,” Wilson said, adding that Lightfoot isn’t part of the “machine” and didn’t wait for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to step aside to decide to run.
Wilson placed fourth in the February general election, winning most of the majority black wards on the city’s South and West sides. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle won her home base on the south lakefront and came in second in the wards Wilson took, while Lightfoot captured the wealthy, north lakefront.
Wilson said he sought the guidance of his supporters through online polls, social media posts and at Sunday church services. Wilson said he was “proud” to endorse Lightfoot after several one-on-one meetings. He said Preckwinkle didn’t make herself as available. Instead, he said, Preckwinkle told him, “I will have someone call you.”
Preckwinkle’s campaign issued a statement alleging that Wilson wanted to “barter his support for appointments and campaign cash.”
“Why do I need money from anybody,” said Wilson, the son of Louisiana sharecroppers who made his fortune managing McDonald’s franchises.
The millionaire businessman self-funded his mayoral campaign and often boasts that he doesn’t need to be bought or be told what to do with his own money. Early in the campaign, Wilson fought off allegations of vote-buying after cellphone footage showed him handing out cash at a Sunday service. Wilson, who also moonlights as a motivational speaker and philanthropist, had said the cash giveaways were about helping people with their property taxes, not votes.
Preckwinkle’s campaign put out a statement saying Wilson’s support is yet another endorsement for Lightfoot from a Trump supporter. Lightfoot has also criticized Wilson for his Republican ties. But on Friday, she said Wilson shares the same “values” about Chicago, calling him “selfless.”
Lightfoot announced Wilson’s endorsement during a City Club of Chicago appearance Friday morning.
Just 33 percent of all Chicagoans who voted in the February election supported Lightfoot or Preckwinkle. They will be in a runoff election on April 2, and one of them will become Chicago’s first female African-American mayor.