In the last weekend before Tuesday’s election, a direct mail piece played the race card against the only African American in the race, incumbent Commissioner Rory Hoskins, and also bashed commissioner candidate Steve Johnsen.
Both mayoral candidates – the incumbent, Anthony Calderone, and the challenger Commissioner Marty Tellalian – decried the tactics and their tone. Calderone, who has been strongly at odds with Hoskins recently and is fronting a slate that does not include the incumbent commissioner, said he had not seen the direct mail flyer.
“I’ve never believed in any negative campaigning,” Calderone said.
The two-sided color ad made false attacks on both Hoskins and Steve Johnsen, another commissioner candidate. Further, it claimed to have been sponsored by a group called Citizens United for Forest Park, a variation on the name of existing group Citizens United in Forest Park. That group’s president, Jerry Webster, is upset about the false attribution and said he contacted the Illinois Attorney General’s office.
The responsible party could be looking at legal trouble for using the name Citizens United for Forest Park: CUinFP is listed as Citizens United for Forest Park on records from the Illinois Secretary of State’s office.
The Forest Park Review tried to contact the Cook County State’s Attorney to ask about the legal repercussion of false attribution, but could not reach anyone by press time Tuesday.
Although the union stamps of the fliers were punched out to conceal where they were produced, portions of the numerals remained on some. Subsequently, the Review traced the fliers to PGC Graphics in the McKinley Park neighborhood of Chicago. A printer there said that 1,000 were made, but he would not reveal the cost. He did say that less than $3,000 was spent.
At the $3,000 mark, the responsible party would have to file expenditures with the Illinois State Board of Elections, state law says. But, the ads feature two 42-cent stamps; if they were used on 1,000 mailers, $840 was spent just in mailing.
The piece also takes out of context quotes from recent Review articles and endorsements in its attack on Hoskins.
Incumbent Commissioner Mark Hosty, who is backed for reelection by Calderone, pointed to anonymous negative flyers that are critical of Calderone and Tom Mannix, a commissioner challenger running with Calderone and Hosty, as being equally wrong. Both said Hoskins was responsible for the ads, but Hoskins denied any involvement.
The fliers suggest Calderone and Mannix colluded to remove Hoskins from the ballot earlier this year. Mannix’s mother Elsie Radtke challenged Hoskins’ candidacy, and Calderone presided over the hearing as a judge. When two other judges voted in favor of retaining Hoskins’ candidacy, Calderone did likewise.
Tellalian, who is running with Hoskins, said, “What I don’t like is it’s anonymous. … It’s so easy to hide behind the cover of anonymity and say whatever regardless of whether it’s true.”
The flier accuses Hoskins of wanting “Maywood to annex part of Forest Park.” It features a digitally manipulated image of a Forest Park welcome sign, with the words “Forest Park” crossed out in a graffiti-like style. Instead “Maywood” is branded in the center of the sign.
The anti-Hoskins attack follows a Review news story on Hoskins’ proposal that Forest Park join an Enterprise Zone in Maywood in an attempt to revitalize commerce along Roosevelt Road. An Enterprise Zone is a state program that offers businesses incentives to build or redevelop within the confines of the zone.
In a letter to the Review, Hoskins said the zone would create more retail business along Roosevelt Road and added that Forest Park would not cede any control to Maywood.
The same direct mail piece also turns its attack on commissioner candidate Steve Johnsen, a former Forest Park police officer. It inaccurately states that Johnsen “resigned from the Forest Park Police Force to avoid being fired and stripped of his pension.” In 2009, Johnsen resigned amid controversial accusations that he did not properly report an arrest. He was never found guilty of any wrongdoing, nor was he denied a pension.
Johnsen said he expected the negative campaigning sooner or later, but feels that it will have little impact on him.
“I feel bad for Rory because it’s aimed at him … someone is playing on race here,” he said, in reference to Hoskins being African American and the ad’s mention of Maywood, which is a predominantly black community.
Johnsen said the late-in-the-game flier will probably be ineffectual because “the race thing doesn’t play well anymore.”
The attacks against Johnsen continued through the day before the election: The Review received alerts that residents were receiving automated phone calls from “retired police officers” who claimed that “morale” on the force has improved since Johnsen’s departure.
In distancing himself from the direct mail attack, Calderone said, “We don’t pay attention to that stuff. … I’ve always made a conscious decision to stay on the high road,” he said.
“I don’t like dirty campaigning,” Hosty echoed, but added that Tellallian’s and Hoskin’s supporters “were the first to go dirty.”