Residents of the 24th Ward will have 20 aldermanic candidates to choose from on the February ballot, in a race that is too close to call.

“We’ve got candidates from every walk of life and they all seem to have a fighting chance,” said Marcus Betts, a businessman in the ward.

The candidate list includes incumbent Ald. Sharon Dixon and former alderman Michael Chandler. In a 2007 run-off election, Dixon beat Chandler, who served from 1995-2007, by 192 votes.

“In this race, it’s too early for a frontrunner,” said community organizer Robert Hightower.

Residents of the 24th are saying education and crime are the issues in dire need of attention by whoever is elected. Mary Hartsfield, a long-time ward resident and volunteer for candidate Shavonda Fields agreed.

“People don’t have the education, don’t have jobs, so when they want to eat, they’re going to sell drugs,” she said.

Other residents also see a lack of education as a catalyst for high crime. Edgar Berry, a retired member of the Teamsters union and lifelong ward resident, insisted the community needs to get kids interested and off of the street corners.

“If you have to get more education and things like after-school clubs, that would do just fine,” Berry said.

A lack of education and high crime rates motivated some candidates to run, including Frank Bass. Bass said he’s got neighbors who can’t sit out on the front porch without worrying about some type of violence occurring. The reason kids are selling drugs, he said, is “we aren’t doing anything with the education system.”

Regardless of who is elected on Feb. 22, residents want the new alderman to address citizens’ concerns.

“I do not want to just talk,” said Cheryl Washington, an undecided voter, “I want somebody to listen.”