18 candidates running in 24th Ward race

February 17, 2011 3:34:48 PM PST
Turning around the West Side neighborhoods around North Lawndale will be a big challenge for any of the candidates in the race for alderman in Chicago's 24th Ward.

Pockets of the West Side struggle with poverty, unemployment and low high school graduation rates.

The 24th Ward includes North Lawndale, parts of East and West Garfield, a bit of Austin and Little Village. Its residents are predominantly African American.

In this election, 18 people are running for alderman in the ward.

The incumbent, Alderman Sharon Denise Dixon, surprised pundits by beating the incumbent in 2007. Two years later, she was arrested for driving under the influence. Alderman Dixon disputes the lawfulness of the arrest and deflects attention to new businesses and development she has brought into the ward during a recession.

"Some have completed and some are being completed, so a lot of work has been done despite the odds," said Alderman Dixon, 24th Ward candidate.

The alderman Dixon unseated is now running to get the seat back. Michael Chandler was 24th Ward alderman from 1995 to 2007. He says with many new aldermen expected in City Council and a new mayor, his leadership would best serve the ward.

"Experience is very important, right now it's critical. Four years ago the people took a chance?And now it's a lot of moaning and groaning," said Chandler.

Several other candidates are taking their first stabs at political office.

Valerie Leonard has a finance background and most recently has been helping social service agencies to find government funding.

"I think it's a wonderful change that we're going to see. I think we're actually going to see greater push back from people. I believe if we elect the right people the will of the people will actually be heard," said Leonard.

Melissa Williams is an attorney from Lawndale. Her professional focus is on real estate, but she's been active offering legal assistance in the community.

"We shouldn't have to continue the live the way we are living and we are entitled to step it up as well just as other neighborhoods are doing," said Williams.

Sports fans may remember Wallace "Mickey" Johnson during his years with the Bulls as the rubber band man. The retired NBA player is a West Side businessman, former Cook County sheriff's deputy and community volunteer. He says he'd been asked before to run for alderman, but now he says is the time.

"I think there's a renaissance going on not just here but throughout the city. I have the leadership. I've done it in the basketball, in the sheriffs department with my own company," said Johnson.

For more information on the 24th Ward candidates, click here