When Ald. Gene Schulter announced Monday that he would not be seeking reelection, his challengers weren’t surprised.
Rumors of Schulter’s retirement have swirled since November since Tom O’Donnell, a former president of the Democratic Party of the 47th Ward, filed to run for the seat in November.
“The fact that Tom O’Donnell is another candidate in the race, who is clearly connected with Alderman Schulter, sent—to me at least—a signal that Schulter was not 100 percent behind pushing for reelection,” said candidate Tom Jacks.
O’Donnell had circulated petitions for Schulter before filing his own papers. He told Center Square Journal Tuesday that he thinks Schulter will endorse him.
“I haven’t talked to him,” said O’Donnell, “but I intend to sit down with him this week and hopefully I will be endorsed by Gene Schulter and the 47th Ward organization.”
O’Donnell said he would also take an endorsement from the Independent Voters of Illinois Independent Precinct Organization (IVI-IPO), which had endorsed Schulter for the position.
Other candidates said they would not ask Schulter for an endorsement, since O’Donnell was his “hand-chosen successor,” as candidate Matt Reichel called him.
The delay in Schulter’s decision frustrated some candidates, but overall they were glad he decided to withdraw before the election. If Schulter had been reelected to the seat before retiring, whoever is mayor in May would appoint his successor.
Schulter, who has served as alderman since 1975, said Monday he has applied to serve on the Cook County Board of Tax Review. In December the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Schulter was vying to replace out-going Joe Berrios on the Board of Review.
“You can’t run for alderman if you want to be something else,” said Reichel.
“Of course they waited until very late in the game to make this announcement, just to keep us on our toes,” he said. “I’m glad he made the correct decision. It’d be disingenuous to run and then drop out shortly thereafter.”
Candidates Reichel, Jacks and Ameya Pawar said they were happy to have an open race for the seat, but Schulter’s decision would not change their approach to the campaign.
“I just want to thank him for his many years of dedicated service in the 47th ward,” said Pawar. “I think it would be great to sit down with him and learn about the job.”
“I hope that things work out for him, that he gets what he wants,” said O’Donnell.