Free doughnuts raise questions about electioneering at Bridgeport polls

By Dean DeChiaro

Just before 8 a.m. on Tuesday, two poll watchers at the Hamburg Athletic Club on South Emerald Street in the Bridgeport neighborhood told potential voters to cast their ballots for Patrick Daley Thompson, the former mayor’s nephew and candidate in the 11th Ward, and to help themselves to “free coffee and doughnuts.”

Patrick Daley Thompson is running for 11th Ward alderman. He is the nephew and grandson of two former Chicago mayors.
Patrick Daley Thompson is running for 11th Ward alderman. He is the nephew and grandson of former Chicago mayors Richard J. Daley and Richard M. Daley. (Patrick D. Thompson campaign/Courtesy)

Election workers inside the club’s polling station said that the doughnuts and coffee were brought that morning by the poll watchers Jason Brown and Peter Alinovich. Brown, standing well within the polling place’s electioneering boundaries, told at least two members of the public to vote for Thompson.

Asked about the doughnuts, Alinovich and Brown made light of the situation.

“What, they’re going to send us to jail?” Alinovich asked.

“We bought those doughnuts with our own money,” said Brown, who later noted that “outside those boundaries, we’re allowed to tell people to vote for Pat D. Thompson.”

There are strict electioneering codes in Chicago, which bar the discussion of candidates or influencing of voters within 100 feet of a polling place.

The Board of Election Commissioners was asked for comment, and did not respond.

Thompson, who is the grandson and nephew of former mayors Richard J. Daley and Richard M. Daley, respectively, is running against challengers John Kozlar and Maureen Sullivan. The ward encompasses Bridgeport, Canaryville and sections of Back of the Yards, Pilsen and Chinatown.

Both Brown and Alinovich have ties to the ward’s Democratic campaign committee. According to Illinois campaign finance records, Alinovich has donated $1,550 to the committee since 2000.

Since 2009, Brown has donated $300. Alinovich also contributed $550 to the election coffers of John P. Daley, Thompson’s uncle, when he served in the state General Assembly.

Dave Bayless, a spokesman for Thompson, said the campaign would look into whether any improper activity was taking place at the polling place.

“Around here we’re very well-versed in the rules and regulations about activity at polling stations,” he said. “Our volunteers have instructions to abide by the law and follow the rules.”

Photo top: A table with free doughnuts and coffee was set up in the middle of a Bridgeport polling station this morning by poll watchers who told voters to vote for Richard Daley Thompson while they were standing within the anti-electioneering “campaign free zone.” (Dean DeChiaro/Medill)