Ronnie Mosley, a political advisor, and Cornell Dantzler, a retired firefighter, will try to succeed Ald. Howard Brookins as 21st Ward alderperson. Credit: Provided

AUBURN GRESHAM — Ronnie Mosley and Cornell Dantzler will go head-to-head in the 21st Ward race to succeed outgoing Ald. Howard Brookins.

With all precincts reporting Tuesday night, Mosley held 24.7 percent of the vote, while Dantzler held 22 percent. Candidates needed at least 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff. The hopefuls will go face off again on April 4.

The leader of the 21st Ward — which will include the former Far South Side 34th Ward under the city’s controversial ward remap — will serve parts of Auburn Gresham, Brainerd, Longwood Manor, Fernwood and West Pullman. The incoming alderman will make an annual salary of $142,772.

Brookins announced his retirement in September after nearly 20 years serving the South Side ward. He initially announced he’d run for reelection a month prior before changing course and opting not to run for a sixth term. In August, Brookins said he hopes to help run his family’s funeral home business when he leaves office.

Fourteen candidates entered the race to succeed Brookins, but half were kicked off the ballot after they withdrew or were disqualified by elections officials.

The seven remaining candidates included attorneys, a police officer, community organizers, a retired firefighter, political staffers and a political consultant, the majority of them hailing from Washington Heights. Most candidates vowed to bring in more businesses and job opportunities and reduce crime in the expanded Far South Side ward.

Mosley, a Washington Heights resident, is the founder of Homegrown Strategy Group, a consulting firm that has helped communities, institutions and public figures like Gov. JB Pritzker enact political and policy changes. 

In January, Mosley said he’d prioritize public safety, economic development, supporting local businesses and creating local resources for youth and older people if he were elected.

To repair “out of control” crime, Mosley will “give people better options” with more local jobs and wraparound services, he said. He’d also transform a vacant building into a community center for youth, and help older neighbors apply for grants and opportunities to benefit communities, Mosley said.

The 21st Ward needs restaurants, entertainment and a business district with thriving economic opportunities, Mosley said. He will work alongside neighbors to guarantee they have a “seat at the table” to determine the best developments for the community, Mosley said.

He received endorsements from Brookins, Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) and Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Church. 

“I’m here because my community invested in me,” Mosley said. “I’m showing up for them the same way they’ve shown up for me. I’m focusing on having a safe ward. That’s our number one priority. Making sure we have jobs, a strong economy and everyone has the resources they need.”

Dantzler, a Morgan Park/West Pullman resident for more than 50 years, was inspired to run for office by fellow lifelong neighbors “familiar with my community service,” he said in January. Dantzler served in the Navy and was a firefighter with the Chicago Fire Department for a quarter of a century before retiring.

He chowed down on plates of potatoes and green beans at a friend’s business in Calumet Heights while he watched the votes roll in, he said. Seeing his name surge ahead “felt great,” Dantzler said. His “hard work paid off,” he said.

“You can’t decrease crime if you don’t have jobs available for those who committed the crime,” Dantzler said. “I want to make sure people are coming together as a community.” 

As he gears up for a runoff, Dantzler said his time living in the ward and record of public services in the community will help him “stand out” from Mosley.

“I’m looking forward to being out there again and letting the people know that we’re bringing a new direction and a new way of doing things to the community,” Dantzler said. “If I’m elected, we’ll be working on everything from public safety to development to infrastructure to services. There’s a new administration in town.”

If elected, Dantzler’s top priorities will be public safety, infrastructure improvement, economic opportunity service enhancement and trade development, he said. Remodeling the parks and providing basic clean-up services are also essential to helping the community thrive, Dantzler said. 

Dantzler will give “equal attention” to older people and youth in the community who need special services, like mentorship programs and a “special senior call line,” Dantzler said.

Ald. Howard Brookins Jr. (21st) speaks at a press conference following the City Council meeting on Dec. 14, 2022. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

Brookins once chaired the Chicago City Council Black Caucus, where he worked alongside Ald. David Moore (17th) to rename Lake Shore Drive after Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, Chicago’s first non-Indigenous settler. As chair of the transportation committee, Brookins helped start the city’s electric scooter program.

Under Brookins’ leadership, the 21st Ward welcomed a Starbucks, the expansion of affordable housing and the opening of a charter school, according to his office. 

Recent years have seen the openings of Wild Blossom Mead and Winery and Cinema Chatham,  The area’s newest development, a $5 million Buddy Bear Carwash at 201-357 W. 83rd St., received approval to move forward in August despite protests from neighbors who argued the community needed more resources rather than another car wash. 

In 2017, Brookins was fined $5,000 by the Chicago Board of Ethics for failing to keep track of hours worked by four aides, and his chief of staff, Curtis Thompson Jr., served a 15-month prison term after being convicted of bribery.

He unsuccessfully ran for one of the 10 Cook County Circuit Court seats in June.

“For the 19 years that I have served alderman of the 21st Ward, I have walked in the footsteps of my father, and I took pride in modeling servant leadership for our beautiful communities,” Brookins said in September. “I am thankful for having the trust of my community as we worked together to provide greater economic opportunity and prosperity for our people.”

Atavia Reed is a reporter for Block Club Chicago, covering the Englewood, Auburn Gresham and Chatham neighborhoods. Twitter @ataviawrotethis