The vote's in the bag

Labor hall offers the homeless cash and sandwiches to be good citizens

When asked why he and his wife contributed so much to Brenda Reyes, Boehme's answer was quite simple.

"Domingo Garcia asked me to," he says, referring to State Rep. Domingo Garcia (D-Dallas), who has also contributed to Reyes' campaign. Reyes, in fact, has retained Garcia to represent her amid legal questions about whether she moved into District 2 in time to qualify for the election.

Interestingly, Moreno also says he contributed to Reyes because Garcia told him to. Moreno also says he finds Reyes to be an attractive candidate. Asked why so many people were giving Reyes money--and were also affiliated with the labor hall--Garcia said he wasn't aware of the sudden surge of homeless voting and had no comment.

"These allegations coming the week before the election are pretty routine," he says. "Whether there's merit or no merit to those I don't know."

Moreno says there is nothing fishy about the get-out-the-vote campaign at the Bunkhaus. Because so many people stay at the hall from time to time, he says, a lot of people use it as their address when registering to vote. "It's not one of those tombstone-type deals. These people are all living, breathing, working people who can vote," Moreno says. "We are supporting Brenda Reyes. That's our candidate, but we aren't in the booth with these guys. We can't tell 'em who to vote for."

The confused look returned to Moreno's face when he was asked why a labor hall representative was offering passersby $3 and pork sandwiches to vote on Sunday.

"That's news to me," Moreno says. Maybe, Moreno says, Gray just went a little overboard in his democratic fervor.

"I think what we had was a guy who was overzealous. He's screwing things up by being an idiot," Moreno says, adding that he would never condone any illegal activity.

"I'm not that stupid," Moreno says. "You know what I mean? That's against the law."

Moreno says he is offering people free rides to the polls, but says that the labor hall always gives away about 400 baloney sandwiches, on white or wheat bread, a day. "That's every day," he says. "It's not something we do every now and then."

But some men said they don't remember seeing a lot of pork chop sandwiches being offered around the Bunkhaus--except during this latest get-out-the-vote drive. One man standing outside the Bunkhaus Sunday said the pork chop sandwich deal was a bunch of baloney. The man, who didn't want to give his name, says he was told he'd get a pork chop dinner if he voted. He registered to vote, but hasn't gotten his card yet.

But that didn't stop Gray from trying to get him to the polls, he says.
"He [Gray] tried to get me to go down the other day. I said I didn't have a card. He said, 'well, that's OK. I'll get you a card,' and I said 'no,'" the man says. "Ain't none of it straight-up. They promise you a pork chop dinner, and you get a pork chop sandwich."

Another man who was offered a bogus voter registration card, however, says he took it, went to the polls, and voted for Reyes like he was told. Then he got his sandwich.

The man, who says he is Jon Michael Christian, held two voter registration cards in one hand Saturday afternoon while seated inside the living room of Loza volunteer Larry Wheat, who lives just a few blocks away from the Bunkhaus. In the other hand, Christian held a white paper sack. In it was one rather skanky-looking pork chop wrapped in shriveled lettuce and stuffed between a pair of bone-white slices of bread.

The first registration card, certification number 2642974, was issued for a Jon Michael Christian, 30, who lists his address at 1818 South Ervay. The second card, certification number 2216760, was issued for an Anthony Richard Boyer, 41, who lists the same address.

Christian says he's been staying at the Bunkhaus for about eight weeks, paying the $6-a-night fee for the bunk and working temporary construction jobs during the day. The 30-ish looking man says he was sitting in the Bunkhaus TV room at noon on Saturday when another man gave him a voter registration card and asked him if he wanted to go to the polls that day. Christian said he would.

"When we first got in the van, he told us who to vote for. He said number 5--Brenda Reyes," Christian says. "He said she was the one who was going to keep the Bunkhaus open."

When the van arrived at the Martin Luther King Center, Christian says he stuffed his voter registration card in his pocket and told the van driver that he lost it. At that point, he says, the driver gave him Boyer's card. Even though he knows he broke the law, Christian says he used Boyer's card to cast his vote because he was afraid to say anything.

"I couldn't do anything else. He [the driver] was right behind me. I didn't want to get caught," he says, referring to the driver and not the election judge. "It was either break the law or let them know something was up."

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