In 2007, Sharon Dixon defeated Michael Chandler by 192 votes in the race for 24th Ward alderman. Dixon, now the incumbent, will face Chandler in another runoff on April 5.
It was just four years ago, that Dixon unseated then-incumbent alderman Michael Chandler by that slim vote margin in a runoff. This year, the two will meet.
“It’s an indication that some people are happy with the job Dixon is doing,” said Marcus Betts, a businessman who organized a pre-election forum in the ward. “And it’s definitely an indication that some people were happy with the job Chandler did.”
Chandler was alderman from 1995 to 2007.
“I thought this scenario was a strong possibility,” Betts said.
Dixon’s campaign agrees.
“If there was going to be a runoff, we anticipated it would be with Chandler,” said Frank Watkins, Dixon’s chief of staff and campaign manager. “They [Dixon and Chandler] had the highest name recognition.”
It wasn’t an easy race, with 16 other candidates on the ballot and two write-in challengers. The majority of voters cast a ballot for someone other than the two top vote getters.
Neither Dixon nor Chandler came close to the needed 50-plus-one tally to avoid a runoff. Dixon finished first with 19.5 percent of the vote; Chandler collected 13.1 percent and finished second, according to the Chicago Board of Elections.
There were a total of 9,140 ballots cast; only slightly more than the roughly 8,400 ballots cast in the 2007 election.
“There were 18 candidates in the race,” Chandler said. “No way could anyone have won outright. Everyone knew it would go to a runoff.”
But why so many candidates?
In a ward with high unemployment, crime and poverty, it demonstrates the community’s desire for change-and indicates that residents of the ward want to be more active, according to Betts.
“People saw a real opportunity to jump in and make a difference here,” he said.
The two remaining candidates have their own theories.
Chandler was hesitant to comment on the subject, only to say: “People know why. The reason is because of the current alderman, but I don’t want to say why. I want to keep my campaign positive.”
Dixon came under scrutiny during her first term after being suspected of drunken driving. She was charged but not convicted. Her campaign thinks that people saw a newcomer win the last election and many of her challengers this time around thought a victory was simple.
“Sharon had never been involved in politics before 2007,” Watkins said. “I think everybody saw that and thought it was easy and jumped into the race. And I think they found out it’s not so easy.”
Despite having new names on the ballot, residents in the ward, by their votes, appear to want someone with experience.
“I think our community is on the verge of a breakthrough, whoever takes office,” Betts said. “If they can use their experience and take advantage of the new [mayoral] administration, I see bright things for our future.”