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CHICAGO (CBS) — A candidate for 16th Ward alderman conceded the race Tuesday night, after being released from a police lockup on charges of assault and obstruction.
Hal Baskin conceded the race to incumbent JoAnn Thompson, who captured 56 percent of the vote compared to Baskin’s 54 percent, with 100 percent of the precincts reporting.
Upon being released, Baskin said he didn’t know why he had been arrested and charged with crimes.
“They told me I was charged with assault – a couple of assaults – and obstruction, and I don’t know what that is,” Baskin said. “I can’t understand it at all; never said anything to anybody; never threatened anybody.”
Around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Baskin entered the Nicholson School at 6066 S. Peoria St., 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.
“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.”
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.
Baskin has a colorful past. As a young teenager in the 1960s, he founded his own street gang called the Hustlers, which later became affiliated with the Disciple Nation, the Chicago Reader reported when Baskin mounted an unsuccessful run for alderman in 1994.
While in gang life, Baskin was charged with several crimes, but was never convicted of a felony, according to the Reader and a 1995 Chicago Tribune report.
Baskin also suffered five gunshot wounds while in gang life, and lost his father to homicide, the Reader reported.
In 1973, Baskin decided to eschew gang life, and worked for Inland Steel for several years before being hired by Chicago’s first rat control program in 1980, the Reader reported. By 1994, he was working as a community organizer and “gang deactivator,” visiting schools to encourage peace and prevent violence, the Reader reported.
Thompson was elected to the seat in 2007, defeating 16-year veteran Shirley Coleman. The ward includes parts of the Englewood, West Englewood, Back of the Yards and Chicago Lawn neighborhoods.
(The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.)