Election flyers that appeared on the South Side last weekend, featuring bigoted broadsides against mayoral finalist Lori Lightfoot’s sexuality in an apparent attempt at making political gain, reflect a long and deplorable tradition: the dirty tricks of Chicago politics.

The flyer, which in part read, “The Gay Equality Act!!! It’s Our Turn,” was circulated near African-American churches, a clumsy attack relying on an over-the-top caricature to foster homophobic fear, in this case in religiously conservative voters who may be persuaded to reject the candidacy of Lightfoot, who is openly gay.

Lightfoot had a measured response ready: “There is no room for hate in Chicago,” she said. At first blush, her comment seemed a simple statement of principle. Look a little deeper, though, and it was a fair appraisal of political potency, too.

Historically, hate or at least strong dislike has been as central to Chicago politics as ward heelers and precinct captains. Politicians have pitted neighbor against neighbor, Irish against Italian, African-American against Hispanic, rich against poor, lakefront liberal against Northwest Side cop, for as long as people have gone to the polls.

Considering, though, how quickly last weekend’s hate-baiting flyer slithered into and out of the mayoral runoff contest between Lightfoot and opponent Toni Preckwinkle, it’s possible a modicum of progress has been made in Chicago politics.

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David Greising is the president and chief executive of the Better Government Association, joining the BGA in 2018. For nearly a century, the BGA has fought for honest and effective government through investigative journalism and policy advocacy.

Greising’s career started at the City News Bureau of Chicago, with stops at the Chicago Sun-Times, Business Week magazine, the Chicago Tribune and Reuters. He was a co-founder of the Chicago News Cooperative and worked briefly as a consultant to World Business Chicago. Today, Greising writes on government issues in regular columns for the Tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business.

Under Greising’s leadership, the BGA has played a key role in uncovering public corruption amidst the wide-ranging federal probe, starting with an in-depth report about Ald. Ed Burke’s conflicts of interest before the federal charges against Burke. The BGA also has exposed waste and fraud at O’Hare and the proliferation of corruption and poverty into Dolton, Lyons and other Chicago suburbs. The BGA’s policy team has led calls for ethics reform in Chicago’s City Council and in state government.