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Ald. Michael Chandler’s quiet exit shakes up 24th Ward race

After voting Tuesday to raise Chicago’s minimum wage, Ald. Michael Chandler (24th) quietly put on his coat, walked across the street and withdrew his name as a candidate for re-election.

Chandler, who just two weeks ago filed nominating petitions to seek a fifth term in office, always does things quietly, so quietly you can forget he’s there sometimes.

Maybe that’s one reason why 13 other candidates jumped in the race this year to take him on, setting the stage for a typical West Side free-for-all that now becomes even more up for grabs with Chandler’s withdrawal.

OPINION

Several of those other candidates look like serious contenders, which probably had something to do with Chandler’s surprise decision to bow out, although all he would say Tuesday is that it was “time to call it a day.”

Chandler, 62, told me he came to his decision after conferring with family during a Thanksgiving weekend visit to his brother’s home in Arizona.

“I did not have this in mind when I went to Arizona,” Chandler said. “They all just came at me about this.”

“[They said,] ‘You know, you’d really be smart to leave office right now. You’re on top.’ They were saying I should spend more time with my family. I could spend four years doing something else with my life,” he said.

Listening to Chandler explain it, I didn’t get the impression he needed much convincing. With 13 years in the city buildings department before he entered political office, Chandler is already entitled to a maximum pension.

Chandler was first elected to represent the 24th in 1995, serving three terms as alderman before losing to Sharon Dixon in 2007.

You probably best remember Dixon for either her DUI arrest or an incident after she left office when she had to agree to check into a 90-day inpatient treatment program to clear up charges that resulted from her showing up at a police station with a loaded gun.

Chandler ran against Dixon again in 2011 and this time won.

“Nice lady” is all he has to say about her now.

Chandler originally replaced Ald. Jesse Miller, who kept the seat warm for a term after the legendary Ald. “Wild” Bill Henry was indicted on corruption charges and died of cancer.

RELATED: Former alderman, North Lawndale activist Jesse Miller dies at 72

I told Chandler I’d never heard anybody say he was corrupt, which is a compliment because that often isn’t the case with West Side aldermen.

“Thank God,” he said. “That’s true. It’s a new history.”

Now, as in Henry’s time, the 24th Ward centers around North Lawndale, a neighborhood long saddled with more than its share of problems — all the usual suspects associated with poverty.

When a low-voltage alderman like Chandler departs a ward with as many challenges as the 24th, I’m always left to wonder whether the next person can make a difference.

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