Even by Chicago politics’ standards, the recent spat between Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Ald. Derrick Curtis is strange.
Curtis, a South Side alderman and firearms safety instructor, was one of the first members of City Council to endorse her reelection bid. But their relationship has soured in the past few months after he accidentally shot himself in the hand in October and complained to the Sun-Times that Lightfoot didn’t call him to check on his well-being.
Newly released text messages show that the relationship continued to be contentious in the days that followed, with Curtis turning the tables by not responding to a series of Lightfoot texts.
On the afternoon the Sun-Times story broke, Lightfoot texted Curtis: “Tried to call you. Please call me.” Hours later, Lightfoot followed up again: “I seriously do not understand you.”
Early the next day, Lightfoot texted Curtis: “Morning has broken and still no call. Gee wonder why.”
A day later, Lightfoot texted him once more, “Will I see you tomorrow at the MLK breakfast?” The next day, Lightfoot texted, “Missed you today.”
It’s not clear when they next saw each other. The original story posted on Jan. 10. On Jan. 16, Lightfoot texted Curtis, “Thought I would come by and meet the seniors.” On Jan. 18, before the City Council met, Lightfoot texted Curtis, “Looking forward to seeing you today.” Later that afternoon, she texted him again, “Great to see you today. Talk soon.”
After that meeting, Lightfoot approached Curtis and was overheard by a WGN-TV reporter telling him, “You say I don’t talk to you. You say I don’t reach out. I’m making sure there’s a record.”
A Lightfoot campaign spokeswoman did not immediately have comment on the exchanges. Curtis did not return a message seeking comment but he recently told a local newspaper that he is now neutral in the race.
The whole saga highlights the trouble Lightfoot has had keeping relationships on City Council, though she has disputed “the narrative” and said, “I have a good relationship with almost every member of City Council.”
Before the flap over the no-call, Lightfoot and Curtis shared a friendly relationship. In August 2020, Curtis texted Lightfoot to tell him he was invited by Greek fraternities to sit on a panel to talk about stopping gun violence. “You would have been proud of me today,” Curtis said.
“They let a couple of youngsters speak and an activist (was) saying that ‘the Mayor doesn’t care about us,’” Curtis said. “I’m going to try and get a video of it because when I finish talking about why I support the Mayor and everyone else should, and Chicago’s history since the prohibition, not only did I get a standing ovation but I looked like an American hero.”
“I am always proud of you,” Lightfoot responded. “You have (been) such a good friend to me. I so appreciate you.”