Updated March 6, 2 p.m.
Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone and Commissioner Tom Mannix are giving a helping hand to 7th District state representative candidate Emanuel “Chris” Welch in the upcoming March 20 primary.
Around Feb. 20, Calderone sent 1,400 letters to Forest Park registered voters urging them to support Welch in the race, according to Welch. The letters, sent on official Calderone letterhead, had the phrase “Paid for by Citizens for Calderone” at the bottom of the letter. They included an application for a mail ballot that can be sent to the Illinois Board of Elections.
“That’s something that [Calderone] wanted to do to show that he supported my campaign,” said Welch. “I’m honored that he endorsed Chris Welch.”
Mannix, who owns the political consulting firm Dolfin Consultants, orchestrated two robo-call town hall events for Welch which reached more than 3,000 voters, according to Welch.
“[Dolfin] has a list of registered voters. They dial the numbers for you. They announce the town hall and people opt in or opt out,” said Welch.
The two phone calls lasted an hour each and Welch answered questions from voters, he said.
“It’s awesome. It’s so exciting to have 2,000 people actually participate,” Welch said
Both Welch and Mannix declined to say how much Welch’s campaign had spent on the telephone campaign. Dolfin Consultants has worked with state and local political campaigns since 2007, according to the Illinois Board of Elections website. As well as orchestrating robo-call campaigns, the firm builds websites, designs signs and composes copy, according to candidate disclosure records.
“We don’t market ourselves and are 100 percent referrals,” said Mannix.
Dolfin has consulted for both Democratic and Republican candidates. Mannix said pricing for their services varies, based on voters reached. According to campaign records, the most paid to Dolfin by a campaign was more than $30,000 for consulting by the campaign of Anne Schaible, who ran unsuccessfully for alderman in Chicago’s 19th Ward in 2011.
Mannix said Welch became aware of the robo-call technology after Mannix helped Forest Park commissioner candidate Mike Curry with a robo-call campaign in 2011.
“Tom Mannix is a former Republican state senate staffer,” said Welch’s opponent, Rory Hoskins, who is also a commissioner for the Village of Forest Park.
“Chris [Welch] can hire anyone he wants, but I don’t understand why he would hire a Republican political operative in a Democratic primary campaign.”
Former Forest Park Commissioner Marty Tellalian, who supports Rory Hoskins and has donated $1,500 to his campaign, said, “When Tom Mannix was a commissioner candidate, he was repeatedly making an issue of District 209 and saying that Forest Park needed to fight tooth and nail to get out of 209 and start our own high school. Now he’s mixing business and politics.”
Candidate Princess C. Dempsey, a Broadview resident, said Hoskins accepted $1,000 from Don Williams, former mayor of Maywood and Karen Yarbrough’s father, whom she alleges is, “a well-known Republican. How can he criticize Tom Mannix for being a Republican?”
But robo-calls are only part of the Welch campaign. After the Feb. 28 call, Welch said voters were sent a letter with an enclosed request for a mail ballot.
Forest Park resident Mike Garman got a mail ballot request in the mail, along with a four-color printed letter from Chris Welch that read, “Thank you for requesting a mail-in ballot for this year’s March 20th primary election.”
“We never requested that, and we didn’t participate in any telephone town hall,” said Garman, who filed a complaint with Cook County Clerk David Orr.
According to Courtney Greve, a spokeswoman for the Cook County clerk, candidates are permitted to send mail ballot request forms based on lists of registered voters from the board.
“I’m sure they could do some kind of a merge and fill in these fields in a PDF file,” she said. “The only issue with this mailing is that it suggests the voter requested the mail ballot request.”
Greve said the clerk’s office called Welch’s campaign and “suggested that the letter is misleading. We suggested that they correct the letter.”
Mannix said Dolfin Consultants did not coordinate the mailing for the Welch campaign.
“We sent out 2,300 mail ballot requests to people who participated in the town hall and said they would like a mail ballot,” said Welch. “And we got one complaint [Garman’s].”
“It must have been 2,299 requests, because I didn’t request one,” said Garman.