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Ald. Tim Cullerton Won't Run for Re-Election on Northwest Side

 Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th) announced Wednesday he would not seek another term on the Chicago City Council.
Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th) announced Wednesday he would not seek another term on the Chicago City Council.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

DUNNING — Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th) announced Wednesday he would not seek another term on the Chicago City Council, saying he planned to retire and spend more time with his family and five grandchildren and avoid "down and dirty" politics.

Cullerton's decision not to seek a second term to represent Portage Park and Dunning on the City Council is the end of an era on the Northwest Side, which has been represented by a member of the Cullerton family since 1973.

"I didn't relish the thought of having to go out and campaign and ask people for money," said Cullerton, 65. "I never really liked the down and dirty part of politics."

Cullerton's decision clears the way for Ald. Nick Sposato (36th) to run to represent the 38th Ward.

The Feb. 24 election will be the first under a new City Council map that was recently upheld by the state appeals court. That map redrew the 36th Ward to include a majority of Latino voters, making Sposato's political future uncertain.

Sposato, a firefighter, said he would announce Aug. 5 whether he would run for re-election in the 36th Ward, or instead seek to represent the 38th, 29th or 30th wards. Sposato has also said he is considering running for mayor. Sposato recently purchased a home that is now in the 36th Ward, but will be in the 38th Ward after the election.

Cullerton "served his community well" and is a "likable guy," Sposato said. Cullerton's decision not to run again makes his decision "a little easier," Sposato said.

Although Sposato said he expected Cullerton not to seek a second term, Cullerton had said until a few weeks ago he had planned to run for another term. In February, Cullerton told DNAinfo Chicago he couldn't see a reason not to run for re-election.

Heather Cherone admits she was surprised that Cullerton isn't running, and discusses what his legacy will be in the ward:

Though most aldermen agreed to recognize the new ward boundaries last year even though they were not officially in effect, Sposato has continued to follow the map that was in effect when he was elected, creating tension between him and Cullerton.

Cullerton called Sposato an "opportunist" who took credit for Cullerton's work throughout the 38th Ward.

"It's unfortunate," Cullerton said of Sposato. "I thought he was a better man."

Cullerton said he wanted to "shy away" from what he said was Sposato's style of politics.

Unlike Sposato, who is a member of the Progressive Reform Caucus that often opposes measures supported by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Cullerton usually backed the mayor's initiatives.

Cullerton, a former deputy city buildings commissioner, was appointed in 2010 by former Mayor Richard M. Daley to fill the seat left vacant when his brother-in-law Thomas Allen became a Cook County Circuit Court judge. Allen replaced Cullerton's father, Thomas, who represented the 38th Ward for 20 years until his death in 1993.

Members of Cullerton's family, including two of his father's uncles, served on the council dating back to 1871.

"It has been an honor to follow in my father's footsteps," said Cullerton, who won a full term in 2011. "I hope I've made my mark. It is time for a younger, prettier face."

Cullerton, who posted often on Everyblock and other social media sites, said he hoped he would be remembered for continuing his family's history of public service.

"When you can help someone, there's no other feeling like it," Cullerton said.

Cullerton, who grew up in Portage Park and still lives a few blocks from the neighborhood's namesake park, said he planned to savor his grandchildren's early years and was looking forward to having the time to take them to the zoo and fishing.

The alderman said he would not endorse a candidate in the race to replace him.

"I want to let the cream rise to the top," Cullerton said.

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