Chicagoans will vote for a new mayor and aldermen Tuesday. Other than the mayoral front-runner being kicked off the ballot temporarily and another candidate accusing an opponent of smoking crack, it's been a rather calm campaign. In Chicago history, stranger things have happened:
1. A Tribune story on April 8, 1896, reported an "unusually peaceable" Election Day with the remarkable headline "Only Two Politicians Are Shot." What the Tribune meant was that two political activists at the polls were wounded, one in the wrist and one in the ankle.
3. When notoriously corrupt William Hale "Big Bill" Thompson was elected mayor in 1927, jubilant supporters flocked to his Fish Fans Club boat, well known as a floating speakeasy in Belmont Harbor. So many people climbed aboard that the boat sank into the mud, inspiring a joke that so much gin was spilled into Belmont Harbor that it became the world's largest martini.
4. The 1928 Republican primary in Chicago was so violent it was called the "Pineapple Primary," named for the grenadelike devices thrown around. But the general election that November was the city's cleanest in years. Who deserved credit? Al Capone, whose henchmen were involved in the earlier violence. After the bloody primary, Chicago Crime Commission founder Frank Loesch visited Capone and demanded he stop the violence. Capone's response? "All right. I'll have the cops send over squad cars the night before the election and jug all the hoodlums and keep 'em in the cooler until the polls close."
5. A Tribune story on Nov. 6, 1940, reported the separate heart-attack deaths of a man on his way to the polls, two women waiting to vote, and a cop guarding ballot counting. The headline: "Four Chicagoans Die in Election Day Excitement."
6. When machine stalwart Vito Marzullo ran against reform candidate Fred Hilbruner for the City Council in 1953, Marzullo got his foe kicked off the ballot. Hilbruner then ran a futile write-in race, winning only one precinct. According to independent Ald. Leon Despres, Marzullo grumbled for years about the loss of that single precinct. "Somebody lied to me," he said.
7. In March 1972, the Tribune teamed with the Better Government Association to send 30 people undercover as election judges and poll watchers. They found widespread fraud. The newspaper didn't stop there. Reporter William Mullen was hired as an election board clerk and worked covertly for three months. At one point, board chairman Stanley Kusper Jr. held a staff meeting and demanded loyalty: "Come November, there aren't going to be any cracks in the wall of this office. Nobody has cracked this office from the outside." Mullen was standing 15 feet away. The stories won a Pulitzer Prize.
8 A 20-year-old Southwest Side man showed up at the polls in 1976 wearing pajamas and slippers and holding a shoebox, which he said contained flowers. Election judges, fearing the box held a bomb, summoned police. A responding officer found the young man smoking marijuana, with more of the "flowers" in the shoebox. He was arrested.
9. Longtime congressman Luis Gutierrez reached political prominence in a wild 1986 aldermanic race against Manuel Torres featuring a libel suit, street fighting, ghost-voter allegations, a gunshot fired in Torres' direction, a suspected pipe bomb, and accusations of communism and cocaine use. Gutierrez beat Torres by 20 votes, 5,245 to 5,225, while a crossing guard named Jim Blasinski received 11 write-in votes -- which grew to 21 when more write-ins were found in a Chicago Board of Election warehouse. That meant Gutierrez was two votes shy of a majority, which meant a runoff was necessary. The second vote in the Near Northwest Side ward was anticlimactic, with Gutierrez winning handily.
10. In 1987, a dirty trickster altered a photo of Southwest Side Ald. William Krystyniak with Pope John Paul II, removing the pope and adding Mayor Harold Washington and former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres. But Krystyniak won anyway. And it didn't seem to hurt Washington or Peres either.
Mark Jacob is a deputy metro editor at the Tribune; Stephan Benzkofer is the Tribune's weekend editor.
Sources: "Chicago Politics, Ward by Ward," by David K. Fremon; "Strange but True: Chicago," by Thomas J. O'Gorman and Lisa Montanarelli; "Grafters and Goo Goos: Corruption and Reform in Chicago, 1833-2003," by James L. Merriner; "Capone," by John Kobler; "The Mafia Encyclopedia," by Carl Sifakis; "Challenging the Daley Machine: A Chicago Alderman's Memoir," by Leon M. Despres with Kenan Heise; and Tribune archives
10 things you might not know about Chicago elections
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