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Alderman Candidate Apologizes for Email Threats During 'Drunken Breakdown'

By Stephanie Lulay | November 19, 2014 5:53am
 Gabe Beukinga (l.) is running against Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. in the 27th Ward.
Gabe Beukinga (l.) is running against Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. in the 27th Ward.
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DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay; Bill Motchan

NEAR WEST SIDE — In an admitted "drunken breakdown," a lending executive trying to unseat Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. sent a series of angst-filled emails threatening to "crush" a major developer in the ward and accusing the firm of engaging in "pay-to-play politics" with the alderman.

Gabe Beukinga, who filed to run in the 27th Ward race Monday and who enjoys the support of a handful of former alderman, lashed out at a Sterling Bay executive in the emails that were obtained by DNAinfo Chicago.

Beukinga, a 31-year-old West Loop resident, sent the first email at 2:59 a.m. Friday to Sterling Bay Managing Principal Andy Gloor.

"Remember when you guys were too scared to support me and gave money to Burnett," he wrote. "I won't forget."

Three minutes later, Beukinga warned Gloor, "I also have ears everywhere, so I hope you're playing your cards right [because] we haven't met and I can be a mean person."

A half-hour later, Beukinga boldly proclaimed he will bury the mega-developer when he gets into office.

"Before I crush you guys for disrespecting me, I'll let you review my marketing program," Beukinga wrote. "Play [your] cards right, bud. I don't like what you guys have done so far and won't put up with it when I'm in."

"So, I'll give you guys a chance to fix the 'pay to play' you guys have done so far. I have zero tolerance for it when I'm in," he continued.

About 9 a.m. Friday, Gloor responded: "Really?"

Beukinga then wrote: "Sorry, drunken breakdown last night. Very immature of me and I apologize."

On Tuesday, Beukinga told DNAinfo Chicago that he sent the emails in a moment of weakness and they were an embarrassment to him. He is a recovering alcoholic, he said.

"Because of a lot of the stress that's happened with the campaign, I haven't really focused on my health and [Alcoholics Anonymous] meetings," he said. "Burnett and his campaign have been trying to bully me around, and I've let my health go to the wayside, and I had just kind of a blowup."

Stephanie Lulay says Beukinga is influential in the West Loop:

Burnett said Tuesday that Beukinga should be worried about how the emails could affect his business, not about whether he's going to take the ward's top job. Beukinga is senior vice president at SomerCor 504, a company that facilitates small-business loans.

"I think he needs to stop drinking or whatever he's doing. I'm going to pray for that brother," Burnett said. "I hope whatever challenges he's having he gets over them."

Before Thursday night, Beukinga said he had been sober for about a year. Despite the "personal breakdown," Beukinga said he stands behind the message of the emails: "I'm standing firm against pay-to-play politics."

In this election cycle, Gloor has donated $1,500 to Burnett under the Four Corners Tavern Group, a group of restaurant/bars Gloor owns with Matt Menna, also a Sterling Bay principal, according to state records. Gloor did not return calls Tuesday.

In the last two years, Sterling Bay has acquired more than two dozen commercial properties in the West Loop, including 1000 W. Fulton Market and Harpo Studios.

Beukinga said he will not take campaign contributions from developers.

"If they want to donate, they can donate through a residential community group," he said.

Beukinga said he sent the emails after hearing that a Sterling Bay official had attended a fundraiser for Burnett last week.

Earlier, Beukinga emailed James Dore, head of the West Loop Residents Association. Gloor was copied on the email.

"Jim, in case you were wondering, Andy and Sterling Bay went to a Burnett fundraiser on [Wednesday] night but declined a fundraiser for me on [Thursday] with Leoporado Construction [because] he said it would be a 'conflict of interest.' Remind me of that come February."

The election is Feb. 24.

Burnett denied Beukinga's claims and said he's happy to have the support of Sterling Bay leaders.

"They support me just like most everyone in the ward do," Burnett said. "I want to know what he's referring to [by pay to play] — I guess I've got to catch him when he's drunk and ask him."

Beukinga is being backed by former 27th Ward aldermen Rickey Hendon, Wallace Davis Jr. and Dexter Watson.

As of 5 p.m. Monday, only Beukinga and Burnett had submitted signatures to secure a spot on the ballot. Burnett, 51, is seeking his sixth term in office. Candidates have until Monday to submit petitions to run.

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