Updated 04/05/11 – 10:36 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — A candidate for alderman was arrested Tuesday afternoon at a South Side polling place and later charged with assault.
Hal Baskin was running against incumbent Ald. JoAnn Thompson in the 16th Ward. Thompson who was leading in the polls Tuesday evening, 57 percent to 43 percent, with 98 percent of precincts reporting.
Around 3:30 p.m., Baskin entered the Nicholson School at 6066 S. Peoria, pointed his finger at an election judge and started shouting, accusing the judge of talking trash about Baskin in the neighborhood, Chicago Board of Elections spokesman Jim Allen said.
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Board of Elections Chairman Langdon Neal said that Baskin was arrested and was removed from the polling place.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office said Baskin was charged with assault — allegedly for poking a police officer in the chest — and disregarding an election judge, both misdemeanors.
“I can’t understand it at all. Never said anything to anybody, never threatened anybody,” Baskin said after posting bail Tuesday night.
A spokesman for Baskin, Keith Harris, told WBBM Newsradio 780’s Steve Miller that Baskin was at the polling place when he saw an election judge help a senior citizen go inside the building.
“And while he was helping her in, he was telling her to vote for JoAnn Thompson, which is electioneering. The judge is not supposed to do that,” Harris said. “When he was challenged about electioneering by Mr. Baskin, (the judge) got irate and starting yelling and screaming and making a big scene out of it. And they called the police and the police arrested Hal.”
As CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman reports, Baskin’s attorney, Lew Myers, denied that Baskin became angry or assaulted anyone over the alleged electioneering at the polling place.
“No he didn’t. What he did was the proper thing,” Myers said. “We called the election board. We called downtown to the county and asked that someone be sent out because there was a problem.”
Myers said he has seen Baskin since the arrest and talked to him about the altercation.
“Of course, Hal Baskin did not threaten anyone and I have no doubt that his concerns about electioneering at the polling place were very valid,” Myers said.
“My client was in the facility. At some point, he had a conversation with people about electioneering in the facility. Shortly thereafter, two Chicago police officers came up,” Myers added. “Baskin talked to the officers, they exchanged comments, none of which were threatening to the officers. Sometime subsequent to that, they put the handcuffs on him.”
A Baskin associate who tried to stop an officer from arresting Baskin was charged with obstruction of justice.
The Chicago Board of Elections says it’s very rare for a candidate to be arrested on election day. Allen said he doesn’t remember anything like this happening in at least 20 years.
(The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.)