A mailer dubbing State Rep. Ken Dunkin a convicted criminal and a “deadbeat dad” has been sent out to his constituents, paid for by Ald. Brendan Reilly’s 42nd Ward Democratic Organization.
The mailer features a picture of Dunkin wearing a fedora and standing behind a pile of cash with a thumbs up: “Why are groups tied to Governor Rauner & the Republican Tea Party spending $750,000 to re-elect ‘Democrat’ Ken Dunkin? . . . to help Ken Dunkin hide from his very disturbing record,” the mailer says.
It also shows Dunkin in a police mugshot dated April 21, 1996. The mailer says Dunkin was found guilty of “violent and menacing criminal behavior toward women” and served jail time. It also claims Dunkin has a history of “violent and menacing criminal conduct toward women,” having been found guilty of battery and has twice violated orders of protection. The mailer lists the court case numbers, as well.
The Sun-Times requested the court files but could not immediately obtain independent copies.
Court records provided by Reilly’s 42nd Ward organization show Dunkin was convicted by a Cook County jury of battery and violating an order of protection after punching a man in the face, cutting his face and loosening one of his teeth in the process.
The April 1996 incident began when Dunkin approached a woman — the mother of his child — and the two began arguing. A man tried to intervene and was punched, the records show.
Dunkin was sentenced to perform 30 days of community service and was given 18 months of probation, records show. He was also ordered to stay away from both victims.
Contradicting what the mailer claims, the Cook County Sheriff’s office has no record of Dunkin serving any jail time.
Some 20 years later, victim Matt Hawkins, now a 48-year-old community activist in East St. Louis, said he vividly remembers the altercation, which left him with a scar, a broken nose and dental plate. He also recalls that Dunkin bragged that he had political connections.
“I saw him in court, and he said ‘You can’t touch me, m———–,’” Hawkins said. “I thought he got a slap on the wrist. I’m glad to hear the truth is finally out.”
Hawkins said he was aware of Dunkin’s subsequent political career and has occasionally seen him when lobbying for East St. Louis causes in Springfield. While Hawkins said he is not pleased that Dunkin has aligned himself with Rauner, he claimed he had no reason to embellish their history.
“I have medical records to prove it. It’s an embarrassing story, really,” he said. “I have nothing to lose by talking, and nothing to gain by talking about it. I got my ass kicked.”
Court records provided by Reilly also show Dunkin had an issue with child support payments for his daughter.
The Sun-Times was unable to reach the complainant, but her lawyer, Lester Barclay, said that the case was amicably resolved and that Dunkin remained a “stand-up guy.”
“All I know is he met his obligations, and he has been a standup guy and a great father,” Barclay said. “Once we worked everything out, it was fine … he provided for his child.
Barclay said he did not recall details of the case.
“People disagree as to what the numbers are [in child support cases],” Barclay said. “They come to a number and the judge says this is the number, and the person pays it or they don’t. [Dunkin] paid.”
The flier paints a different picture.
“Ken Dunkin was a ‘Deadbeat Dad’ & failed to pay child support,” the flier reads.
“We can’t count on Ken Dunkin to stand up for our kids when he’s failed to meet his responsibilities to his own. Dunkin’s wages were garnished after he failed to pay child support and he later voted to make it harder to collect interest on delinquent child support,” it reads.
Dunkin, who has been in the Legislature since December of 2002, has come under fire by state Democrats for bucking the supermajority — being absent for a vote needed to empower state union negotiators in their talks with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s negotiators. He also didn’t vote to pass a bill that would have permanently reversed Rauner’s state child care assistance program cuts.
Dunkin’s primary opponent, Juliana Stratton, said she had nothing to do with the information printed on the fliers.
“He [Reilly] did not consult with me before those were sent out,” Stratton said.
But Stratton added: “The information is relevant. It’s relevant to the voters of the 5th District who have a right to know all of the information to help them make an informed decision in this race about who should represent them in Springfield.”
Stratton said she’s heard “rumblings in the community” about the allegations in the fliers, but “I didn’t know any of the details.”
Asked if it’s fair to bring up alleged incidents that, in some cases, occurred two decades ago, Stratton said she’s “an advocate for a second chance,” but also believes that candidates and those holding public office should be held to “a higher standard.”
Last month, Dunkin raked in the largest single Illinois legislative primary donation on record — a $500,000 windfall from a Republican-tied group. The contribution came from the Illinois Opportunity Project, co-founded by former Republican gubernatorial candidate and conservative radio host Dan Proft, in a primary race with only Democratic contenders.
The Illinois Opportunity Project decided that “a substantial financial commitment” was warranted to support Dunkin “against the onslaught he is facing” from Madigan and the speaker’s “public sector union allies in the March primary election,” the group said in a news release about the contribution.
Before he was elected alderman in 2007, Reilly worked for Madigan on the House staff and for the state Democratic Party.
Reilly, who used to produce direct mail for a living, is no stranger to paid phonebanking and direct mailers. He wrote and designed the Dunkin mailers in-house.
Reilly, who supports Stratton, has been disenchanted with Dunkin since Dunkin became an ally to then Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Dunkin missed the vote to impeach Blagojevich as he vacationed with his family on a Caribbean cruise.
Attempts to reach Dunkin were unsuccessful on Friday.